Session 1

First, second, third... twenty-ninth... In this session we're looking at the meaning, use and spelling of ordinal numbers. We'll meet a very disorganised man, and listen to 6 Minute Vocabulary!

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Activity 1

6 Minute Vocabulary

Ordinal numbers

What's the date today? And do you know how to say it? Find out about ordinal numbers and have a go at the quiz in 6 Minute Vocabulary.

 

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Catherine
Hello and welcome to 6 Minute Vocabulary with me, Catherine.

Neil
And me, Neil. And today we're talking about ordinal numbers.

Catherine
Yes. So numbers like first, second and third. So let's start by listening to Laurence. He's talking about his 18th birthday party. While you listen, try to answer this question: What date was his party? Here's Laurence.

INSERT
Laurence
For my 18th birthday last year, I invited about sixty friends and relatives! It was on the twenty-fifth of May and it was the first time that I've ever had a big party. It was in a restaurant on the third floor of a hotel. The food was really delicious and I won second prize in the dancing competition!

Neil
So we asked you: What date was Laurence's birthday party?

Catherine
And the answer is: the twenty-fifth of May.

Neil
That's right. Now the twenty-fifth is an ordinal number like the first and the second. Ordinal numbers tell us the position of something in a group - the dates in a month, for example.

Catherine
Or which birthday it is. Laurence said it was his eighteenth birthday.

Neil
Yes, he did. Lucky him! And ordinal numbers are different to cardinal numbers. We use cardinal numbers like one, two, three for counting and to answer the question how many.

Catherine
And to make a cardinal number into an ordinal number, add the letters t-h to the end of the cardinal number. Eighteen - eighteenth; sixty - sixtieth.

Neil
And that works for all the cardinal numbers except for first, second and third – they're irregular, but for all the others, it's add t-h, so that's fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh…

Catherine
Eighth, ninth, tenth. So that's good but in writing we do have a couple of irregular spellings, such as fifth:

Neil
f-i-f-t-h

Catherine
eighth

Neil
e-i-g-h-t-h

Catherine
ninth

Neil
n-i-n-t-h

Catherine
twelfth

Neil
t-w-e-l-f-t-h

Catherine
And for numbers ending in -y like sixty, drop the -y and add -i-e and -t-h to make sixtieth:

Neil
s-i-x-t-i-e-t-h

Catherine
Now let's look more closely at dates. Listen for the date in this clip.

INSERT CLIP 1
It was on the twenty-fifth of May and it was the first time that I've ever had a big party.

Neil
The twenty-fifth of May. When we say the day before the month, we always use the words the and of: the twenty-fifth of May.

Catherine
But when we say the month before the day, we don't use the word of. It's just May the twenty-fifth.

Neil
We often use the word the with ordinal numbers, but we can also use possessives. In this next clip, Laurence uses the possessive adjective my before eighteenth.

INSERT 1 CLIP 2
For my 18th birthday last year, I invited about sixty friends and relatives!

Catherine
Let's have another clip.

INSERT 1 CLIP 3
It was in a restaurant on the third floor of a hotel. The food was really delicious and I won second prize in the dancing competition!

Neil
So, now we have two more ways of using ordinal numbers: space and quality.

Catherine
Yes, we do. And the third floor tells us about the position of the floors in space. It's the same as when we give directions, for example: Take the second left after the traffic lights.

Neil
And second prize tells us about the quality. And a point to make here is that ordinal numbers can be used as adjectives and adverbs without the. Like in the phrase he won second prize. Second is an adjective.

IDENT        
6 Minute Vocabulary from BBC Learning English.

Neil
And now it's quiz time! Number one: Which of these is correct? The party's on: a) thirtieth of July b) the thirtieth July c) the thirtieth of July.

Catherine
And it's c) the thirtieth of July.

Neil
Great! Now, number two. Which word in this list is wrong? First, second, third, ford, fifth.

Catherine
The answer's ford. It should be fourth.

Neil
Yes, it should! Number three: Which of these is correct? a) My twenty-first birthday b) My the twenty-first birthday c) The my twenty-first birthday.

Catherine
The answer's a) My twenty-first birthday.

Neil
Well done if you got them right. But before we go, here's a vocabulary tip. Try saying your own important and memorable dates in English, for example, birthdays, anniversaries and festivals. If the dates are important, you're more likely to remember the English.

Catherine
There's more about this at bbclearningenglish.com. Join us again soon for more 6 Minute Vocabulary.

Both
Bye!

Downloads

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Summary - meaning and use

Ordinal numbers tell us the position of something in a group. They are used for:

1. Dates
It's the twelfth of November

2. The order of events
Her fiftieth birthday

3. Position in space
Our apartment's on the first floor
It's the third on the right

4. Order of quality
The first prize in the competition

Spelling and form

We usually form ordinal numbers by adding -th to cardinal numbers:
four - fourth
first, second and third are irregular forms
fifth, eighth, ninth, twelfth and numbers ending in -y have irregular spellings: twentieth

We say dates with the and of:
the eighth of April
April the eighth 

But we don't write them like that. We write them as:
8th April
April 8th
8 April

First, second and third have the irregular suffixes 1st, 2nd and 3rd

We usually use the definite article the with ordinal numbers:
on the third day
It was the first time I've ever been to France

But sometimes we use possessives:
my thirtieth birthday
Julia's second child

Ordinal numbers are also used as adjectives and adverbs without the or a possessive adjective.

Next

That's the first activity over and done with. We hope you liked listening to 6 Minute Vocabulary. On to the second activity now - have a go at an ordinal numbers spelling quiz!

Session Vocabulary

  • Ordinals - meaning and use

    Ordinal numbers tell us the position of something in a group. They are used for:

    1. Dates
    It's the twelfth of November

    2. The order of events
    Her fiftieth birthday

    3. Position in space
    Our apartment's on the first floor
    It's the third on the right

    4. Order of quality
    The first prize in the competition

    Spelling and form

    We usually form ordinal numbers by adding -th to cardinal numbers:
    four - fourth
    first, second and third are irregular forms
    fifth, eighth, ninth, twelfth and numbers ending in -y have irregular spellings: twentieth

    We say dates with the and of:
    the eighth of April
    April the eighth 

    But we don't write them like that. We write them as:
    8th April
    April 8th
    8 April

    First, second and third have the irregular suffixes 1st, 2nd and 3rd