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8.9: Lesson 7 Grammar- Ordinal numbers with 第 (dì)

  • Page ID
    65683
  • We use ordinal numbers to express things like "number one" or "second," so mastering them in Chinese is important. Fortunately, they are also very easy to learn by just adding the prefix 第 (dì).

    Basic Usage

    In English, there are four different suffixes for ordinal numbers: -st, -nd, -rd and -th. Chinese makes things a lot simpler by using one prefix for all ordinal numbers: 第 (dì). This character is simply placed in front of the number:

    Structure 

         第 + Number

    Examples 

    • 第一
      dì-yī
      The first
       
    • 第二
      dì-èr
      The second
       
    • 第三
      dì-sān
      The third

    Full Pattern with Measure Words 

    Typically, this pattern is used together with a measure word to make a complete noun phrase.

    Structure 

         第 + Number + Measure Word + Noun

    Examples 

    • 我是第一个到公司的人。
      Wǒ shì dì-yī gè dào gōngsī de rén.
      I'm the first person that came to the office.
       
    • 他要坐早上第一班地铁去上班。
      Tāyào zuò zǎoshang dì-yī bān dìtiě qù shàngbān.
      He needs to take the first train in the morning to go to work.
       
    • 小李是她的第三个男朋友。
      Xiǎo Lǐ shì tā de dì-sān gè nánpéngyou.
      Little Li is her third boyfriend.
       
    • 我的第一个中文老师是美国人。
      Wǒ de dì-yī gè Zhōngwén lǎoshī shì Měiguó rén.
      My first Chinese teacher was American.
       
    • 爸爸的第一个手机是NOKIA。
      Bàba de dì-yī gè shǒujī shì NOKIA.
      Dad‘s first cell phone was a Nokia.
       
    • 你的第一个工作是什么?
      Nǐ de dì-yī gè gōngzuò shì shénme?
      What was your first job?
       
    • 到美国的第二个月,我找到了工作。
      Dào Měiguó de dì-èr gè yuè, wǒ zhǎodào le gōngzuò .
      I found a job the second month I was in the USA.
       
    • 第二行第五个汉字怎么读?
      Dì-èr háng dì-wǔ gè Hànzì zěnme dú?
      How do you read the fifth character from the second line?
       
    • 这次考试,我是我们班第一。
      Zhè cì kǎoshì, wǒ shì wǒmen bān dì-yī.
      On this test, I was first in our class.
       
    • 这次比赛,我们班第一,他们班第二。
      Zhè cì bǐsài, wǒmen bān dì-yī, tāmen bān dì-èr.
      In this contest, our class is the first, their class is the second.

    Note that there are some words that don't use measure words because they themselves are already measure words. For example: 天 (tiān), 年 (nián), 周 (zhōu), 次 (cì), etc.

    • 第一天,我们在宾馆里。
      Dì-yī tiān, wǒmen zài bīnguǎn lǐ.
      On the first day [of our trip], we will be in the hotel.
       
    • 来上海以后的第二年,他开了这家公司。
      Lái Shànghǎi yǐhòu de dì-èr nián, tā kāi le zhè jiā gōngsī.
      He started this company his second year after coming to Shanghai.
       
    • 下个月的第一周老板要出差。
      Xià gè yuè de dì-yī zhōu , lǎobǎn yào chūchāi.
      The boss needs to go on a business trip the first week of next month.
       
    • 这是我第一次去北京。
      Zhè shì wǒ dì-yī cì qù Běijīng.
      This is my first time going to Beijing.

    Exceptions 

    Note that some nouns can form ordinals without 第 (dì). With these, the number can be used directly. For example, 七楼 (qī lóu) is "the seventh floor," even though there is no 第 (dì).

    1. 楼 lóu floor (of a building)
    • 七楼 qī lóu “floor seven; seventh floor”
    1. 层 céng level (of a building)
    • 一层 yī céng “level one; first floor”

    [adapted from AllSet Learning Chinese Grammar Wiki, Creative Commons License BY-NC-SA 3.0]

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    Any Questions? 

    If you have any questions about this grammar point, please ask in the class forums!