English Numbers

Ordinal, Cardinal, and Nominal

people holding numbers
We use English numbers to...
  • count people or things
  • put things in order
  • identify people or things
  • as determiners

Click Here for Step-by-Step Rules, Stories and Exercises to Practice All English Tenses

Click Here for Step-by-Step Rules, Stories and Exercises to Practice All Tenses

Skip to "Rules for Writing Numbers."

Types of numbers

There are three common types of English numbers:
  1. cardinal (showing quantity)

  2. ordinal (showing order)

  3. nominal (showing identity)

English Number Cardinal Ordinal Ordinal Abbreviations
1 one first 1st
2 two second 2nd
3 three third 3rd
4 four fourth 4th
5 five fifth 5th
6 six sixth 6th
7 seven seventh 7th
8 eight eighth 8th
9 nine ninth 9th
10 ten tenth 10th
11 eleven eleventh 11th
12 twelve twelfth 12th
13 thirteen thirteenth 13th
14 fourteen fourteenth 14th
15 fifteen fifteenth 15th
16 sixteen sixteenth 16th
17 seventeen seventeenth 17th
18 eighteen eighteenth 18th
19 nineteen nineteenth 19th
20 twenty twentieth 20th
22 twenty-two twenty-second 22nd
25 twenty-five twenty-fifth 25th
30 thirty thirtieth 30th
40 forty fortieth 40th
50 fifty fiftieth 50th
60 sixty sixtieth 60th
70 seventy seventieth 70th
80 eighty eightieth 80th
90 ninety ninetieth 90th
100 one hundred one hundredth 100th
125 one hundred twenty-five one hundred twenty-fifth 125th

1. Cardinal numbers 

Cardinal numbers are also known as "counting numbers" and are used to count things. Cardinal numbers tell us "how many."

  • We have two dogs.

  • I have $15.00.

  • There are 12 birds.

  • He is six years old today.
birthday cake

2. Ordinal numbers

Ordinal numbers are used to tell the order of things. They tell us level or position in a group.

  • I am third in line.

  • That was your fifth cookie!

  • Happy 50th birthday!

  • First, combine eggs, sugar, flour, and salt.

  • He finished first in the race!

first place

3. Nominal numbers

Nominal numbers are used to name and identify things. Nominal numbers can be single or grouped numbers.

Nominal numbers include:
  • social security numbersDriver's license

  • bank account numbers

  • driver's license numbers

  • employee and student identification numbers

  • zip codes

    (Las Vegas, NV 89101)

  • telephone numbers


  • numbers of a train or bus route

    (Take route 105 to get to the grocery store.)

  • player numbers

    (Number 40 has the ball!)
basketball player


Cardinal and Ordinal English numbers can be used as determiners to help identify nouns. They tell (determine) how much or which one.

Examples of numbers as determiners:
  • We invited fifty people to our wedding.

  • Jenny got first place at the art contest.

  • Add 1 egg to the cookie batter.
woman baking

Rules for writing numbers

Do you spell out a number or use its numeral form?

Here are some general rules to help you.

1. When to spell out numbers

A) Spell out numbers less than 10.

  • one
  • two
  • five
  • 15
  • 16
  • 150

B) Don't begin a sentence with a numeral. Spell it out.

  • Incorrect: 15 children were at the concert.

  • Correct: Fifteen children were at the concert.

D) Spell out numbers in most formal writing.

E) Spell out numbers when writing time with "o'clock."

  • Incorrect: School starts at 8 o'clock each day.

  • Correct: School starts at eight o'clock each day.

2. When to use numerals in writing

A) Use numerals with a set of numbers or nominal numbers.

  • Players 10, 15, and 45 have fouled out of the game.

  • My city's zip code is 89520.

B) Use numerals with fractions and percents in tables, mathematics, and science.

  • 25%
  • 100%
  • 2/3
  • 5 1/2

*We usually spell out "percent" in formal writing.
  • 25 percent
  • 100 percent

C) Use numerals for measurements.

  • The tree is 10 feet 6 inches tall.

  • The tree is 10' 6" tall.

D) Use numeral for recipes.

  • 2 cups water

  • 3 eggs

  • 4 tablespoons sugar

E) Most advertisements use numerals.

sale sign

F) Use numerals with time written with a.m. and p.m.

  • School starts at 8:00 a.m.

  • The bus will arrive at 9:10 p.m.

G) Internet, newspaper, and magazine headlines and articles usually use numerals.

Numbers stand out in writing if they are written as numerals.
  • Correct: The club raised $100 for charity!

  • Incorrect: The club raised one-hundred dollars for charity!

Newspapers and magazines usually use numerals to save space and to allow readers to easily scan for facts.

man with newspaper

These were examples and rules of English Numbers. Now that you know them, it is time to practice! Get our ESL Books.