Cardinal Number

Cardinal numbers
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A cardinal number is a number used in counting to indicate quantity. A cardinal number answers the question "How many?" Also called a counting number or a cardinal numeral.

Though not all style guides agree, a common rule is that cardinal numbers one through nine are spelled out in an essay or article, while numbers 10 and above are written in figures. An alternative rule is to spell out numbers of one or two words (such as two and two million), and use figures for numbers that require more than two words to spell out (such as 214 and 1,412). In either case, numbers that begin a sentence should be written out as words.

Regardless of which rule you choose to follow, exceptions are made for dates, decimals, fractions, percentages, scores, exact sums of money, and pages--all of which are generally written in figures. In business writing and technical writing, figures are used in nearly all cases.

List of Cardinal Numbers

The cardinal numbers refer to the size of a group:

  • zero (0)
  • one (1)
  • two (2)
  • three (3)
  • four (4)
  • five (5)
  • six (6)
  • seven (7)
  • eight (8)
  • nine (9)
  • ten (10)
  • eleven (11)
  • twelve (12)
  • thirteen (13)
  • fourteen (14)
  • fifteen (15)
  • twenty (20)
  • twenty-one (21)
  • thirty (30)
  • forty (40)
  • fifty (50)
  • one hundred (100)
  • one thousand (1,000)
  • ten thousand (10,000)
  • one hundred thousand (100,000)
  • one million (1,000,000)

The Difference Between Cardinal Numbers and Ordinal Numbers

Michael Strumpf and Auriel Douglas

  • When using number words, it is important to keep the difference between cardinal numbers and ordinal numbers in mind. Cardinal numbers are counting numbers. They express absolute number without any implication of position...
    The ordinal numbers, on the other hand, are position numbers. They correspond to the cardinal numbers but indicate position in relation to other numbers...

Using Commas with Cardinal Numbers

  • Andrea Lunsford
    Use a comma between the day of the week and the month, between the day of the month and the year, and between the year and the rest of the sentence, if any.
    The attacks on the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001, took the United States by surprise.
    Do not use commas with dates in inverted order [e.g., 23 April 2016]  or with dates consisting of only the month and the year [e.g., January 2017]...
    In numerals of five digits or more, use a comma between each group of three digits, starting from the right.
    The city's population rose to 158,000 in the 2000 census.The comma is optional within numerals of four digits but is never used in years with four digits.

More Tips on Using Cardinal Numbers

  • Diana Hacker
    When one number immediately follows another, spell out one and use figures for the other: three 100-meter events, 125 four-poster beds.
  • Linda Smoak Schwartz
    You may shorten numbers over ninety-nine if they fall within the same range (e.g., 200-299, 300-399, 1400-1499) or if the second number will be clear to your reader when shortened. Numbers such as these are clear: 107-09, 245-47, 372-78, 1002-09, 1408-578, 1710-12.
  • Toby Fulwiler and Alan R. Hayakawa
    Note that numbers used with o'clock, past, to, till, and until are generally written out as words: at seven o'clock twenty past one.
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Your Citation
Nordquist, Richard. "Cardinal Number." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Nordquist, Richard. (2023, April 5). Cardinal Number. Retrieved from Nordquist, Richard. "Cardinal Number." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 4, 2023).