In German, it's possible to use numbers as adjectives. To do so, it's important to know the difference of ordinal and cardinal numbers and their usage. This chapter will deal with it.
Ordinal numbers are not the numerals to count (eins, zwei drei). In most cases they are written (erste, zweite, dritte/first, second, third) and used:
The ordinal numbers are created in most cases by adding a suffix to a cardinal number. To use a cardinal number, you have to add
|Cardinal number||Pronouncing||Ordinal number with -te|
Watch out for some exception of this rule! At erste and dritte there is a changed root, at siebte the- en is dropped, and at achte which only adds an -e.
|Cardinal number||Pronouncing||Ordinal number with -ste|
By writing a text, the ordinal numbers are usually written out until 12. By using numbers from 13 on, just use the cardinal form and add a point (13., 14.).
In most cases, ordinal numbers are considered as adjectives. Therefore the numbers need to be declined in the same way as adjectives. Depending on the type of article, there are different types of declension:
|With definite article||Masculine||Feminine||Neuter|
|Nominative||der zweite Hund||die zweite Puppe||das zweite Kind|
|Accusative||den zweiten Hund||die zweite Puppe||das zweite Kind|
|Dative||dem zweiten Hund||der zweiten Puppe||dem zweiten Kind|
|Genitive||des zweiten Hundes||der zweiten Puppe||des zweiten Kindes|
|With indefinite article||Masculine||Feminine||Neuter|
|Nominative||ein zweiter Hund||eine zweite Puppe||ein zweites Kind|
|Accusative||einen zweiten Hund||eine zweite Puppe||ein zweites Kind|
|Dative||einem zweiten Hund||einer zweiten Puppe||einem zweiten Kind|
|Genitive||eines zweiten Hundes||einer zweiten Puppe||eines zweiten Kindes|
|Nominative||zweiter Hund||zweite Puppe||zweites Kind|
|Accusative||zweiten Hund||zweite Puppe||zweites Kind|
|Dative||zweitem Hund||zweiter Puppe||zweitem Kind|
|Genitive||zweiten Hundes||zweiter Puppe||zweiten Kindes|
As ordinal numbers as adjectives usually refer to a noun, they need to be declined. They stand in front of the noun they refer to.
Keep in mind, that the numbers are used as adjectives and therefore always need to take adjective endings!
There are some forms of expressions, where it is necessary to know how to use ordinals in German. For instance:
1) By using ordinal numbers to talk about the dates in German the ordinal number stands before the month or the year.
2) Ordinal numbers without article are not just used as the ordinal numbers, but with synonyms.
In all examples the bold type words mean that the noun is ranked number one in any ranking. So the ordinal number is used in a different style.
3) Ordinal numbers can also be used as nouns.
In German, as well as in English, there are both cardinal and ordinal numbers. The cardinal numbers are the numerals used to count.
|Cardinal numbers in German||Spelling and pronouncing|
Using numbers higher than 20, in German the numbers are expressed in reverse (e.g. 21 = einundzwanzig = one-and-twenty).
Cardinal numbers can also be used in combination with adjectives.
If you want to learn more about this, have a look at the chapter about counting in German.
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