|I POSTI PIÙ BELLI D’ITALIA:||ITALY’S MOST BEAUTIFUL PLACES:|
|Primo: Roma||First: Rome|
|Secondo: Venezia||Second: Venice|
|Terzo: la Costa Amalfitana||Third: the Amalfi Coast|
Do you agree? Even if it’s impossible to rank the most beautiful places in Italy, you’ll still need your Italian ordinal numbers to get around, for everything from deciphering Italian menus and asking directions, to understanding Roman cuisine.
Stay tuned to find out:
- the difference between Italian ordinal numbers and cardinal numbers
- what the Italian ordinal numbers are
- how to pronounce the Italian ordinal numbers
- how to use Italian ordinal numbers
- how to make them agree with nouns
- what their abbreviations are
- how to use Italian ordinal numbers to talk about fractions
- how to talk about grades at school
- when and when not to use Italian ordinal numbers to talk about days of the month and centuries
- exceptions with Roman numerals
Table of Contents
WHAT ARE ITALIAN ORDINAL NUMBERS?
Ordinal numbers tell the order or position of something in a list, like first, second, third, fourth.
On the other hand, cardinal numbers show quantity, or how much: like one, two, three, four.
ITALIAN ORDINAL NUMBERS 1-10
Here’s the semi-bad news: the Italian ordinal numbers from 1-10 don’t follow a pattern. You just have to buckle down and memorize them.
This chart shows the Italian ordinal numbers for 1-10, with the corresponding English, and the Italian cardinal number. You can listen to how to pronounce the Italian ordinal numbers here too. (Check out Italian numbers 1-10 to brush up on your Italian cardinal numbers.
|ITALIAN CARDINAL NUMBER||ITALIAN ORDINAL NUMBER||ITALIAN ORDINAL NUMBER PRONUNCIATION||ITALIAN ORDINAL NUMBER AUDIO||ENGLISH ORDINAL NUMBER|
What’s in a name: Italians are known for having large families (even though today, the birth rate is one of the world’s lowest). In the past, it was customary to name children according to their birth order: Primo was the first child, Secondo was the second child, and so on. A famous example is Primo Levi, the celebrated Italian-Jewish writer and concentration camp survivor, who was the first child. And even today, my family has an Italian friend named Terzo, who is the third child in his family.
You will notice ordinal numbers in Italian place names as well. The town of Sesto Fiorentino takes its name from its location, six miles from Florence on the ancient Via Cassia road. Another example is Sesto San Giovanni, which lies on the ancient Via Aurea six miles from Milano.
ITALIAN ORDINAL NUMBERS 11 AND UP
1-10 was the hard part. From 11 onwards, it’s easy! Just drop the cardinal number’s final vowel and add -esimo to the end of the number. Exception: numbers that end in trè and sei get to keep their final vowel sounds.
ventuno (21) becomes ventunesimo (twenty-first):
ventitrè (23) becomes ventitreesimo (twenty-third):
ventisei (26) becomes ventiseiesimo (twenty-sixth):
|ITALIAN CARDINAL NUMBER||ITALIAN ORDINAL NUMBER||ENGLISH ORDINAL NUMBER|
|126||centoventisei||centoventiseiesimo||one hundred twenty-sixth|
|9.000||nove mila||novemilesimo||nine thousandth|
|7.000.000||sette milioni||settemilionesimo||seven millionth|
|8.000.000.000||otto mlliardi||ottomiliardesimo||eight billionth|
HOW TO USE ITALIAN ORDINAL NUMBERS
Now that we know how to form the Italian ordinal numbers, how do we use them to describe things? Like, my third pizza of the day? Or, my fifth ice cream?
Every Italian noun has either a masculine or feminine gender. In Italian, the gender and number of the ordinal number must agree with the noun it modifies. And the ordinal number usually goes before the noun. So:
il quinto gelato is the fifth ice cream (masculine singular):
la terza pizza is the third pizza (feminine singular):
On Italian menus you will notice these headings:
I primi piatti First courses:
I secondi piatti Second courses:
Italian ordinal numbers also come in handy when you need directions:
A: Scusi, mi potreste dire dov’è il Colosseo? È la mia prima volta a Roma. Sorry, could you please tell me where the Colosseum is? It’s my first time in Rome.
B: Certo, prendi la seconda strada a destra e lo troverai davanti. Of course, take the second street on the right, and you’ll see it in front of you.
A: Grazie. Thank you.
B: Prego, arrivederci! You’re welcome, goodbye!
The quinto quarto (fifth quarter), is what Romans call offal, or the poor cuts of meat like oxtail, sweetbreads, tripe, brain and testicles. The quinto quarto is an important part of Roman cuisine, so if you’re squeamish make sure you know what you’re ordering!
La prima cosa bella (The First Beautiful Thing) is the name of the well-loved classic song by Nicola di Bari from 1970, as well as the 2010 film directed by Paolo Virzi that featured the song. Here are some of the lyrics:
La prima cosa bella The first beautiful thing
Che ho avuto dalla vita that I had from life
È il tuo sorriso giovane, sei tu. is your young smile, it’s you.
When writing Italian ordinal numbers, use the following abbreviations in superscript:
º small superscript o after the cardinal number for masculine ordinal numbers
ª small superscript a after the cardinal number for feminine ordinal numbers
il 2º piano is il secondo piano or the second floor:
la 20ª fila is la ventesima fila or the twentieth row:
Hopefully this explanation of the ordinal number abbreviations will help you decipher Italy’s super confusing parking signs.
Italy survival tip: Have you ever ended up in one of those tiny Italian elevators going to the wrong floor? Or walked up a zillion flights of stairs only to realize you still have way more to go than you thought? The floors in Italian buildings are named differently than in the US, and it’s easy to end up in the wrong place.
In Italy the first floor up from the ground floor (piano terra) is the first floor, or primo piano– not the second floor like in the US. The second floor up from the ground floor is the secondo piano (not the third floor), and so on.
So next time you’re thinking of walking up to the seventh floor (settimo piano) in Italy, keep in mind you’ll have to walk up seven flights, not six!
DAYS OF THE MONTH
Unlike in English, Italian uses cardinal numbers (and the definite article) to express days of the month.
il 4 luglio is il quattro luglio or July 4th
il 15 agosto is il quindici agosto or August 15th
Oggi è il 27 settembre. Today is September 27th.
The one exception is the first of the month, which uses the ordinal number (and definite article):
il 1º aprile is il primo aprile or April 1st:
Use Italian ordinal numbers to express the denominator (the bottom number) in fractions, just like in English.
1/5 = un quinto = one fifth
¼ = un quarto = one quarter
1/1000 = un millesimo = one thousandth
Use the plural version of the Italian ordinal number when the numerator (the top number) is higher than 1, like this:
38 = tre ottavi = three eighths Listen
56 = cinque sesti = five sixths Listen
91.000.000.000 = nove miliardesimi = nine billionths Listen
In fact, un centesimo (one one-hundredth), is the name of a euro cent in Italian.
Italian ordinal numbers often use Roman numerals (brush up on yours here), for example when writing the centuries:
il secolo XXI is il secolo ventunesimo or the 21st century
One detail to note is that in Italian, while Roman numerals are used with the names of rulers and popes, the definite article is dropped:
|HOW IT’S WRITTEN IN ITALIAN||HOW TO SAY IT IN ITALIAN||HOW IT’S WRITTEN IN ENGLISH||HOW TO SAY IT IN ENGLISH|
|Elisabetta II||Elisabetta seconda||Elizabeth II||Elizabeth the Second|
|Carlo III||Carlo terzo||Charles III||Charles the Third|
|papa Giovanni Paolo II||papa Giovanni Paolo secondo||Pope John Paul II||Pope John Paul the Second|
In addition to using ordinal numbers to describe the centuries, Italian also has special names for the 13th century and every century since. In the fields of art, history and literature, these century names are used more often than ordinal numbers.
For example, the 13th century is also referred to as Il Duecento (the two hundred) because it is the 1200s, or mille duecento in Italian.
Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina è uno dei compositori più celebri del Cinquecento.
Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina is one of the most celebrated composers of the 1500s.
Here are all of the century names down the left hand column, along with their equivalents in English and Italian:
|il Duecento||1200s||the 13th century||il tredicesimo secolo|
|Il Trecento||1300s||the 14th century||il quattordicesimo secolo|
|Il Quattrocento||1400s||the 15th century||il quindicesimo secolo|
|Il Cinquecento||1500s||the 16th century||il sedicesimo secolo|
|Il Seicento||1600s||the 17th century||il diciassettesimo secolo|
|Il Settecento||1700s||the 18th century||il diciottesimo secolo|
|L’Ottocento||1800s||the 19th century||Il diciannovesimo secolo|
|Il Novecento||1900s||the 20th century||il ventesimo secolo|
|Il Duemila||2000s||the 21st century||il ventunesimo secolo|
GRADES AT SCHOOL
To describe in Italian what grade a child is in at school, use the feminine form of the Italian ordinal number. In Italy there are 5 years of elementary school starting at age 6, and 3 years of middle school starting at age 11.
Essere in . . . or Fare la . . . prima/seconda/terza/quarta/quinta (elementare)
To be in first/second/third/fourth/fifth grade (at elementary school).
Faccio la prima elementare.
I’m in first grade.
Mio figlio è in quarta.
My son is in fourth grade.
Essere in . . . or Fare la . . . prima/seconda/terza.
To be in the first/second/third year of middle school.
Sono in seconda media.
I’m in the second year of middle school.
La mia migliore amica è in terza media.
My best friend is in the third year of middle school.
You may also want to read about Italian Numbers 1-100.