What Are French Ordinal Numbers and Fractions?

Most ordinal numbers and fractions are written the same

Ordinal numbers (les nombres ordinaux) are used to express rank or position, in other words, ordinal numbers are used for ordering, as opposed to cardinal numbers, which are used for counting.

Most French ordinal numbers and fractions (les fractions) are written the same. In English, they are identical from "third" on up, while in French they’re the same starting with cinquième.

Ordinal numbers

   

Fractions

firstpremier
première 
1st1er
1re  
            
seconddeuxième2nd2e 1/2, halfun demi,
une demie
/ la moitié
thirdtroisième3rd3e 1/3un tiers
fourthquatrième4th4e 1/4un quart
fifthcinquième5th5e 1/5un cinquième
sixthsixième6th6e 1/6un sixième
seventh septième7th7e 1/7un septième
eighthhuitième8th8e 1/8un huitième
ninthneuvième9th9e 1/9un neuvième
tenthdixième10th 10e 1/10un dixième
     3/4trois quarts
     2/5deux cinquièmes

A Few Rules of the Road

1. Other than demitiers, and quart, all French fractions are based on their corresponding cardinal numbers. Note that when the cardinal number ends in -e, that letter is dropped before the fraction ending. 

cardinal numberdrop the final e (if any)add -ième
sixsixsixième
onzeonzonzième
vingt et unvingt et unvingt et unième


2. Demi can be feminine when used as a noun or when it follows a noun. But when demi precedes a noun, it always remains in the masculine form. All other French fractions are always masculine and must be preceded by a number. If they’re followed by a noun, the preposition de is inserted as a go-between.

3. Premier ("first") is the only ordinal number that can be either masculine or feminine: premier (masculine) and première (feminine). Note that twenty-first, thirty-first and the like are always masculine.

A Few Pointers

  • Watch out for the spelling changes from cinq to cinquième and neuf to neuvième.
  • Ordinal numbers are not used in dates in French, except for premier​.
  • To transform a compound fraction such as trois quarts into an adjective, add a hyphen, like this: un trois-quarts violon > a three-quarters-size violin
  • Fractions and ordinal numbers are abbreviated differently. The fraction un cinquième can only be abbreviated 1/5, whereas the ordinal cinquième is shortened to 5e.
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Lawless, Laura K. "What Are French Ordinal Numbers and Fractions?" ThoughtCo, Jul. 6, 2017, thoughtco.com/french-ordinal-numbers-and-fractions-1371331. Lawless, Laura K. (2017, July 6). What Are French Ordinal Numbers and Fractions? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/french-ordinal-numbers-and-fractions-1371331 Lawless, Laura K. "What Are French Ordinal Numbers and Fractions?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/french-ordinal-numbers-and-fractions-1371331 (accessed January 18, 2018).