If you haven’t heard of the story of the Wolf & the 7 Kids by the Brothers Grimm, you can watch it below, but there are also some ordinal numbers in this story. When each one hides in their various places, the story names them “the first, second, third, etc.”. Below the video I’ll explain how to make these in German and how to use them.
First, let’s get the definition of an ordinal number out of the way and find out what makes them different than normal numbers. Normal numbers just show how many of an item there are. Ordinal numbers, as the name implies, puts the items in order. Most of the time, the ordinal numbers reflect the normal numbers, but occationally they are irregular and you simply have to memorize them. Luckily, they are usually irregular in the same way that English ones are. Let’s take a look at the list below. I’ll explain how they work after you do.
As you can see in the chart above, the first three in English and German are irregular. There isn’t really a good way to remember them other than to memorize them. After that they get pretty easy. Most of the time, you simply take the normal number and add a “t” to the end of it. There are a few other changes, but those come up when we get past twenty.
As you may be aware already, German adjectives require certain endings to match the gender and case. Since ordinal numbers are usually adjectives, you may have to add a few extra letters to the end of the ordinals in the chart above. That’s why there is a dash behind each one. If you are saying the date in German, you might say “Heute ist der erste Februar.” In this case, I added an “e”, because that is the adjective ending required for the nominative case masculine nouns after a der-word.
Without going into too great of detail about adjectives, there is really only one other version you need to know most of the time. If you want to say “on the” before the date in German you would say “am”. Since this is a contraction of “an dem”, you need to add the ending, “-en” to the end of the ordinal number. For example: Ich habe am fünfzehnten November Geburtstag.”
Here is another list of ordinal numbers, but this time we have 11th, 12th, and 13th followed by all of the numbers up to one hundred that end with zero. You should recognize the pattern pretty quickly, but I’ll explain it below if you don’t.
As you can see, “elft-” and “zwölft-” follow the same pattern as before. When we get to “dreizehnt-“, we get a much easier pattern, because all of the numbers up to “neunzehn” will end with “-zehn”. This means that the ordinal number will always be the same. The same is true for each of the numbers up until one hundred that end in “-zig”. As you can see, now we add “-st-” to the end of the normal number to get the ordinal. Obviously, again, we will need to add an adjective ending most of the time. When you get to one hundred, the same thing happens, but I just wanted to point it out on its own. The same rules that applied before, apply now. You still need to add an adjective ending to the ordinal number.
I hope you found this information helpful. If you have any suggestions for the future, leave it in the comments below.
I’ll leave the next story I do up to the viewers. I’ll post a poll in a few days on Twitter to see what story people want me to do. I have a few ideas in mind, but I want to see what others want before I just run with the idea.