Although ordinal numbers in Spanish are not as commonly used as cardinal numbers (one, two, three, etc.), they are used in situations where the speaker wants to express order, sequence, or the position of an element. Like when you want to say that you came in first in the race, that your favorite episode of “Friends” is the eighth episode of the third season, or that you have an incredible view of the city because you live on the tenth floor.
The use of Spanish ordinal numbers is very common up to the tenth. From the eleventh onwards, the use of ordinal numbers in Spanish is overshadowed by cardinal numbers, and definitely after the twentieth, most native speakers are simply going to use cardinals.
In this post we’ll start off with the basic translations of the ordinal numbers in Spanish, from 1st to 100th. Then we’ll go into the usage rules for Spanish ordinal numbers, including instances when the cardinal numbers are generally used instead. Finally, we’ll cover the different ways to abbreviate the ordinal numbers in Spanish, just as you write 1st instead of first in English. You can practice what you’ve learned at the end of the post with a quick quiz on the Spanish ordinal numbers.
Now let’s get started!
Spanish Ordinal Numbers: from 1 to 10
These first ten ordinal numbers in Spanish are the most commonly used by native speakers. We’ll just list the masculine singular forms in these tables, but remember that the endings need to change to reflect the gender and number of whatever the Spanish ordinal refers to.
Spanish Ordinal Numbers: from 11 to 19
From numbers 11 onward, the Spanish ordinal numbers are compound since they are made up of a combination of décimo plus ordinal numbers 1-10, as in decimoquinto (15th). Note that these numbers can be written as one word, or with a space between each word, as in décimo quinto. Both are correct. If the words are separate then décimo has a tilde, whereas when written as one word it doesn’t, as in decimoquinto.
To match the gender and number of what they describe, rules for changing the endings of these compound Spanish ordinal numbers depend on whether we write them out as one or two words. Both words need to be modified if they’re written as two words, whereas if written as one word just the final ending is modified. For 15th in feminine, for example, we write either decimoquinta or décima quinta.
Eleventh and twelfth each have additional single-word translations, undécimo and duodécimo, in addition to the others that match the rest of this series.
It is not very common that native speakers use the Spanish ordinals from 11 and up. In most scenarios, we just use the cardinal numbers instead.
|One-word ordinals, Spanish
|Two-word ordinals, Spanish
Spanish Ordinal Numbers: from 20 to 100
It’s rare for native speakers to use the ordinal numbers from 11-19, and it’s even rarer for us to use any ordinal numbers in Spanish from 20 upwards. However, it is important that you identify them in case you do ever come across them.
For numbers between 20 and 100, we use the ordinal number endings -ésimo, -gésimo, or -agésimo, plus the unique ordinal numbers from 1 to 9, as in vigésimo sexto (26th). The same accenting and gender rules for one-word or two-word options apply here as we saw in 11-19, so both vigésimas sextas and vigesimosextas would be correct to refer to the 26th feminine plural object.
|vigesimoprimero, vigésimo primero
Rules for Using Ordinal Numbers in Spanish
Now that you know the ordinal numbers, let’s go through a few usage rules so that you can use them seamlessly out there in the real world.
The endings of Spanish ordinal numbers change to reflect gender and number
Ordinal numbers in Spanish usually precede the noun and must agree in gender and number with the nouns they modify.
- I finished the fourth chapter yesterday. – Terminé el cuarto capítulo ayer.
- It is the fifth time I’m calling you today. – Esta es la quinta vez que te llamo hoy.
- Only the first and second place winners received money. – Solo los primeros y segundos ganadores recibieron dinero.
Like with other Spanish adjectives, you can make ordinal numbers feminine just by changing the final -o of the masculine form to -a, and you make them plural by adding an -s.
- On the second day, they went to the beach. – El segundo día, fueron a la playa.
- His second daughter is a lawyer. – Su segunda hija es abogada.
- My first Spanish class was too hard. – Mi primera clase de español fue muy difícil.
- My first few dancing lessons have been awesome. – Mis primeras clases de baile han sido increíbles.
Primer and tercer sometimes replace primero and tercero
When Spanish ordinal numbers primero and tercero precede a singular masculine noun, the -o is dropped.
- He is the first student to finish the test. – Es el primer estudiante en terminar el examen.
- My parents live on the third floor. – Mis padres viven en el tercer piso.
To talk about dates from the 2nd onwards, cardinal numbers are used instead of ordinal numbers
With dates, primero is the only ordinal number Spanish speakers use. All other dates are expressed with cardinals.
In English, you use ordinal numbers for all dates, so keep an eye out for this common mistake and just use normal numbers instead of ordinal numbers for all dates except the 1st.
- June first – El primero de junio
- May fifth – El cinco de mayo
- October twelfth – El doce de octubre
After 10th, cardinal numbers are commonly used instead, placed after the noun
Ordinal numbers typically go before the noun they modify. After the tenth, however, the use of ordinal numbers in Spanish is not very common. Instead, to convey the same meaning, we replace the ordinal numbers with cardinal numbers and place them after the noun.
- This is the 16th convention of this company. – Este es el congreso 16 de la empresa.
- We were late to the airport, so we are the 49th and 50th passengers on the plane. – Llegamos tarde al aeropuerto, así que somos los pasajeros 49 y 50 en el avión.
Ordinals are used for names, at the end
In Spanish, Roman numerals are used in writing when referring to queens, kings, popes, and sometimes centuries, chapters, and street names. When spoken, however, we use the ordinals. In this use, the ordinal numbers are placed after the name of the person they describe.
- Pope John Paul II – El Papa Juan Pablo II (Segundo)
- Queen Elizabeth I – La Reina Isabel I (Primera)
- King Charles III – Carlos III (Tercero)
Abbreviations of Spanish Ordinal Numbers
Ordinal numbers in English are often abbreviated by adding the last two letters of the written ordinal to the digit, as in 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th… In Spanish, the equivalent practice is to use the last letter of the singular form in superscript: either o or a. As with other Spanish abbreviations, there is always a period after the digit, before the superscript.
To abbreviate “first, second, third” in Spanish, we therefore get 1.º, 2.º, 3.º. in masculine, and 1.ª, 2.ª, 3.ª in feminine. This form applies to all of the ordinal numbers in Spanish, for both singular and plural objects. The exceptions are 1.er and 3.er in contexts where we use primer or tercer for 1st and 3rd.
These abbreviations for Spanish ordinal numbers are used in everyday situations, as opposed to the abbreviations using Roman numerals that we saw for specific cases.
|English ordinal abbreviations
|Spanish ordinal abbreviations
|1.º, 1.ª, 1.er
|3.º, 3.ª, 3.er
Ordinal numbers in Spanish are used when it comes to listing things, or when expressing a certain position. Spanish speakers use them frequently until 10, sometimes from 11 to 19, and rarely beyond 20 because they get too complicated.
In this post we nonetheless covered how to say all of the Spanish ordinal numbers from first to one hundredth. The most important are indeed the first ten, which are all single words that you need to memorize. From there, we saw how to create compound ordinal numbers in Spanish, with the option of writing them as two words or joined together as one.
We saw that ordinal numbers in Spanish generally go before the noun they describe, and that they always agree with it in number and gender. Finally, we saw a couple of ways to abbreviate the Spanish ordinals, whether with Roman numerals for specific things like kings and popes, or using a period and a superscript after the digit.
With the vocab for the Spanish ordinals, along with all the straightforward rules for their use, you should be ready to master ordinal numbers in Spanish and use them whenever the context calls for it!
Exercises: Ordinal Numbers in Spanish
Now that you have a good grasp of the ordinal numbers in Spanish, why don’t you give their use a try?
In this activity, you will have the chance to practice with the Spanish ordinals. Read each sentence carefully and fill in the blanks with the correct cardinal or ordinal number corresponding to the number in parentheses. Remember to take into account the number and gender of the noun it refers to.
Be careful, because there may be sentences in which cardinal numbers are the correct option. The answers are below.
1. Mi mamá me regaló mi _____ (1) bicicleta cuando tenía 5 años.
2. Hay un despacho de abogados en el _____ (8) piso.
3. Este es el _____ (3) empleo que consigo en el año.
4. La L es la _____ (12) letra del abecedario.
5. Mi hermano y yo nos graduamos con honores porque fuimos los _____ (1) estudiantes de la clase.
6. No creo en las _____ (2) oportunidades.
7. Compré mi _____ (5) carro este año.
8. El gato de la vecina se cayó desde el piso _____ (33).
9. Me di mi _____ (1) beso con mi mejor amiga.
10. Mi cumpleaños es el _____ (31) de marzo.
1. Mi mamá me regaló mi primera bicicleta cuando tenía 5 años.
2. Hay un despacho de abogados en el octavo piso.
3. Este es el tercer empleo que consigo en el año.
4. La L es la decimosegunda letra del abecedario.
5. Mi hermano y yo nos graduamos con honores porque fuimos los primeros estudiantes de la clase.
6. No creo en las segundas oportunidades.
7. Compré mi quinto carro este año.
8. El gato de la vecina se cayó desde el piso treinta y tres.
9. Me di mi primer beso con mi mejor amiga.
10. Mi cumpleaños es el treinta y uno de marzo.