November 28, 2023 ·

Learning Basics: Ordinal Numbers in Spanish Explained


Ordinal Numbers in Spanish

Ordinal numbers in Spanish, or “números ordinales,” are essential tools for expressing order or position within a series, similar to English ordinal numbers like “first, second, and third.” Mastering Spanish ordinal numbers 1-10 and understanding Spanish numbers in order are crucial in daily communication, whether navigating directions, scheduling appointments, or narrating the sequence of events. These numbers also require proper gender agreement and plurality, making their usage an integral part of Spanish language proficiency. This guide will cover how to say ordinal numbers in Spanish, providing a solid foundation for effectively communicating in real-life scenarios.

The Role of Ordinal Numbers in Spanish

Spanish ordinal numbers play a crucial role in conveying sequence and hierarchy in various contexts, functioning differently from cardinal numbers which denote quantity. Developing an understanding of the application and structuring of these ordinal numbers is essential for language proficiency. Ordinal numbers up to the tenth (“décimo”) are commonly utilized in both spoken and written Spanish, with many native speakers even unaware of higher ordinal forms.

In more formal speech or text, cardinal numbers are often substituted for ordinal numbers, especially in cases like the 30th (“trigésimo”) or the 158th (“centésimo quincuagésimo octavo”). By doing so, communication becomes simpler, and the need for gender or plurality agreement is removed. Understanding this crucial distinction between cardinal and ordinal numbering systems in the Spanish language helps learners effectively navigate various contexts.

Common Spanish Ordinal Numbers

  1. Primero – First
  2. Segundo – Second
  3. Tercero – Third
  4. Cuarto – Fourth
  5. Quinto – Fifth
  6. Sexto – Sixth
  7. Séptimo – Seventh
  8. Octavo – Eighth
  9. Noveno – Ninth
  10. Décimo – Tenth
Ordinal Number Spanish (Masculine/Feminine) English
1 Primero/Primera First
2 Segundo/Segunda Second
3 Tercero/Tercera Third
4 Cuarto/Cuarta Fourth
5 Quinto/Quinta Fifth
6 Sexto/Sexta Sixth
7 Séptimo/Séptima Seventh
8 Octavo/Octava Eighth
9 Noveno/Novena Ninth
10 Décimo/Décima Tenth

Mastering the use of ordinal numbers in Spanish requires practice and commitment, but doing so will lead to improved communication and a more precise expression of ideas in various situations where numerical order plays a key role.

An Overview of Spanish Ordinal Numbers 1-10

In Spanish, ordinal numbers from one to ten are “primero” through “décimo.” They require gender agreement and plurality, which are essential to grasp for building a solid understanding of Spanish numbering system and language proficiency.

Understanding Gender Agreement and Plurality

For masculine nouns, ordinal numbers adjust their form by dropping the ‘o’ before the noun, such as “primer” and “tercer.” However, when the ordinal number doesn’t directly precede the noun, it remains “primero” and “tercero.” In case of feminine nouns, “primera” and “tercera” are used. This agreement in gender and number follows the pattern of adjectives within the Spanish language, ensuring that ordinal descriptors align with the grammatical structure of the sentence.

Common Usage of Ordinal Numbers in Daily Life

Ordinal numbers frequently make their way into daily conversations for expressing ranks and positions, including:

  • “El segundo lugar” (second place)
  • “La primera vez” (first time)
  • “El primer día del mes” (the first day of the month)
  • “Su décimo quinto cumpleaños” (fifteenth birthday)

In general, Spanish speakers use ordinal numbers one through ten in normal speech for clarity and simplicity.

Exceptions in Ordinal Number Usage

While ordinal numbers are commonly used for the first ten in a series, their usage becomes more complex, and alternative forms might be employed beyond this range. For example, “vigésimo” (20th) and “centésimo” (100th) are grammatically correct, but speakers often revert to cardinal numbering, such as “el número treinta” (number thirty) instead of “el trigésimo” (thirtieth).

Informally, some speakers may add “avo” to a cardinal number, like “veintitresavo” for 23rd. However, the correct use of this form is for specifying fractions. By gaining a deeper understanding of Spanish ordinal numbers, their common usage, and exceptions, learners can enhance their fluency and communication skills in daily life situations.

Extending Beyond the Basics: Ordinal Numbers in Spanish 1-20

As you extend your knowledge of ordinal numbers in Spanish, it is essential to know the numbers from 11 to 20. These ordinal numbers continue the sequence established by the first ten, combining “décimo” with the suffixes “primero” through “noveno”. For instance, to say “11th” in Spanish, you can use either “décimo primero” or “undécimo”, while “12th” can be expressed as “décimo segundo” or “duodécimo”.

Beyond the basics, ordinal numbers from the twenties onward, such as “vigésimo” for 20th, “trigésimo” for 30th, up to “nonagésimo” for the 90th, follow the same gender agreement rules and are used with their respective nouns. In the list below, you can observe the ordinal numbers from 11 to 20 in both masculine and feminine forms for a better understanding of extending Spanish number knowledge.

  1. Undécimo/Décimo Primero – Undécima/Décima Primera
  2. Duodécimo/Décimo Segundo – Duodécima/Décima Segunda
  3. Décimo Tercero – Décima Tercera
  4. Décimo Cuarto – Décima Cuarta
  5. Décimo Quinto – Décima Quinta
  6. Décimo Sexto – Décima Sexta
  7. Décimo Séptimo – Décima Séptima
  8. Décimo Octavo – Décima Octava
  9. Décimo Noveno – Décima Novena
  10. Vigésimo – Vigésima

For quicker reference, you can also use the table below which highlights the ordinal numbers from 1 to 20 in Spanish:

Ordinal Number Masculine Feminine
1st Primer / Primero Primera
2nd Segundo Segunda
3rd Tercer / Tercero Tercera
19th Décimo Noveno Décima Novena
20th Vigésimo Vigésima

In conclusion, mastering the ordinal numbers in Spanish from 1 to 20 is a vital step towards extending your Spanish number knowledge. By doing so, you will be able to communicate more effectively and with greater precision in various contexts, such as expressing sequences, positions, and comparisons.

Applying Ordinal Numbers in Spanish Within Real-Life Contexts

Ordinal numbers in Spanish play a crucial role in various aspects of daily life, particularly in organizing schedules and narrating temporal events. By stating dates like “el primer día” (the first day) and using terms such as “segundo grado” for 2nd grade when referring to academic contexts, ordinal numbers allow for precise communication and comprehensible timelines in both personal planning and formal arrangements.

Formal communication relies on Spanish ordinal numbers to express sequences with accuracy and respect, which is essential when dealing with documents, invitations, or institutional announcements. Set phrases such as “el vigésimo primer siglo” (the 21st century) are commonly used, reflecting a structured cultural approach to conveying hierarchy and formality.

In sports and competitions, Spanish numerical order is crucial for identifying rankings and positioning, using phrases like “el tercer lugar” for third place and “la décima vez” (the tenth time) to denote occurrences. Employing ordinal numbers in these situations highlights the importance of clarity and precision when acknowledging achievements or specifying the order of competitors, ultimately adding depth and structure to real-life applications in diverse contexts.


What is the purpose of ordinal numbers in Spanish?

Ordinal numbers in Spanish, or “números ordinales”, serve to express the order or position in a series, similarly to ordinal numbers in English. They are widely used in daily communication and essential in formal contexts, such as navigating directions, scheduling appointments, or narrating sequences of events. They must also match the gender and plurality of the nouns they modify.

How are ordinal numbers in Spanish similar to adjectives?

Just like adjectives in Spanish, ordinal numbers must agree in gender and number with the noun they modify. For example, masculine nouns are paired with “primer” or “tercer”, while feminine nouns use “primera” and “tercera”. This agreement helps ensure that ordinal descriptors align with the grammatical structure of the sentence.

Are ordinal numbers above ten in Spanish commonly used?

Ordinal numbers beyond the tenth are less commonly used in daily Spanish. Instead, the cardinal numbers are often used. However, they could be employed in more formal speech or text with higher numbers, such as the 30th (trigésimo) or the 158th (centésimo quincuagésimo octavo).

How do I use ordinal numbers in Spanish for dates and schedules?

Ordinal numbers in Spanish are instrumental in organizing schedules and narrating temporal events in daily life. For example, you can use ordinal numbers to state dates like “el primer día” (the first day) or specify grade levels, such as “segundo grado” for 2nd grade.

In what context do Spanish ordinal numbers play a role in sports and competitions?

In sports and competitions, Spanish ordinal numbers designate ranking and positioning, such as “el tercer lugar” for third place or noting occurrences like “la décima vez” (the tenth time). Their application in these contexts emphasizes the importance of precision and clarity when acknowledging achievements or specifying the sequence of competitors.


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