Ordinal Numbers and Cardinal Numbers
by Edgar Xu
My name is Edgar Xu, an English teacher from the No.1 High School
of Yanjin County, Yunnan Province, China.
I have a question to ask you:
Can we use Arabic numbers directly to indicate sequences or orders in English writing?
Someone told me we must use English numbers (first, second, third, fourth, fifth, etc.) instead of Arabic numbers (1,2,3,4,5,etc). Is is true?
I'm puzzled over the question. Would you like to give me a specific, explicit and detailed answer? Thank you very much!
Hi Edgar Xu,
You must be referring to ordinal numbers.
An ordinal number is a number that tells the position of something in a series. (The word "ordinal" means "indicating order.")
The first twenty ordinal numbers are:
- He arrived first to the finishing line.
- This is the second time I see you.
- Today is the fifth of June.
You can compare these with cardinal numbers.
A cardinal number is a number that tells the quantity of something. (The word "cardinal" means "most important or with other things based on it.")
The first twenty cardinal numbers are:
- I only need one bag.
- Please give us two cups of tea.
- There are ten people in the room.