Asking the Value of Ordinal Numbers / whichth? / how manyeth?

Discussion in 'All Languages' started by Flaminius, Mar 10, 2007.

  1. Flaminius

    Flaminius coclea mod

    capita Iaponiae
    日本語 / japāniski / יפנית
    Dear Forum,

    I wonder how languages you know ask the value of ordinal numbers. In other words, how do they demand the hearer the value for "nth" as in, "Bill Clinton is the nth president of USA"?

    Japanese can use a direct Wh-question to elicit the answer for the above question.

    Bill Clinton-wa nam-bamme-no Amerika Gasshūoku Daitōryō desu-ka.
    BC-TOPIC Wh-ordinalPosition-GEN USA president copula-Question.

    The answer would be;
    42 bamme-no daitōryō desu.
    42 ordinalPosition-GEN president copula.
    [He] is the 42nd president.

    In short, X-bamme-no (of Xth position) can take the Wh-morpheme and yield nam-bamme-no (of Whth position).

    Mandarin and Turkish can use a Wh-question if I remember correctly.

    In contrast, many languages such as English, French and Italian seem to be unable to make a Wh-question to ask directly an ordinal number. What constructions do those languages use in order to elicit the answer, "BC is the 42nd president"?
  2. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    I supposed you are asking whether there is a way to ask "Is X the n-th president of the United States?", or perhaps "Who is the n-th president of the United States?"

    As you can see, it can be done in English. ;)
  3. Flaminius

    Flaminius coclea mod

    capita Iaponiae
    日本語 / japāniski / יפנית
    The answer I'd like to get in the shortest form is, "the 42nd one" not "Bill Clinton."

    The Japanese sentence for your "Who is the n-th president of the United States?" is;
    dare-ga 42-bamme-no daitōryō desu-ka.
    Who-NOM 42-ordinalPlace-GEN president copula-Q
  4. Frank06

    Frank06 Senior Member

    Nederlands / Dutch (Belgium)
    In Dutch:
    - De hoeveelste president van de VS is Bill Clinton?
    The 'how-many-th' president of the VS is BC.
    - We can reverse the order:
    BC is de hoeveelste president van de VS?

    But that doesn't change the phrase 'article + WH- card. numb. + noun'


  5. DrWatson

    DrWatson Senior Member

    This type of question is possible in Finnish:

    Q: Monesko Yhdysvaltain presidentti on Bill Clinton? (= *How-many-th president of the United States is BC?)
    A: Hän on 42. presidentti. (= He is the 42nd president)

    And I think this can be done in German, too:

    Q: Der wievielste Präsident der vereinigten Staaten ist BC?
    A: Er ist der 42. Präsident.
  6. jonquiliser

    jonquiliser Senior Member

    Svediż tal-Finlandja
    Swedish also has a form of 'many' that elicits the answer "the n-th": "hur mångte..?" *(ex: hur mångte gånger är det du hör det? - how manyeth time is it you hear that?) In the case of the president, however, this would be a little weird to use that, you would say "vilken president i ordningen är BC?", i.e. (lit.) "which president in the order is BC?"

    It seems that "mångte" in any case is a finlandism (a word used in the Swedish spoken in Finland).
  7. Ilmo

    Ilmo Member Emeritus

    In Finnish we have a very handy word "monesko", that means exactly "how-many-th". You can also say "kuinka mones"; it has the same meaning.

    Monesko Amerikan presidentti Bill Clinton on?
    Hän on neljäskymmenestoinen presidentti.

    In order to avoid rather long and complicated written ordinal numbers, we usuallly mark in text by putting a period after the number; this changes the cardinal number to an ordinal one.

    Hän on (Amerikan) 42. presidentti.

    In order to avoid confusion, the ordinal number should not be the last "word" in a sentence! Nobody could understand correctly two consecutive periods.
  8. Krümelmonster Senior Member

    Germany, german
    In German it's similar to the Dutch version, you would ask "Der wievielte Präsident der USA ist Bill Clinton?"
    or reversed: "Bill Clinton ist der wievielte Präsident der USA?
    (As Frank06 translated: The 'how-many-th' president of the US is BC?)
  9. Whodunit

    Whodunit Senior Member

    Deutschland ~ Deutsch/Sächsisch
    I think it works in colloquial French, but a native speaker should prove it:

    Bill Clinton est le combientième président des États-Unis ?

    If you can understand some Chinese, of which I'm sure you can, Flaminius, you might like this topic.
  10. jester.

    jester. Senior Member

    Aachen, Germany
    Germany -> German
    It certainly is:

  11. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    I think you would need to resort to some kind of periphrasis, such as "Which position did Bill Clinton hold in the line (list?) of American presidents?"

    The same for Portuguese.
  12. Marga H Senior Member

    Similar in Polish: Który z kolei?...which in the line..
  13. Chazzwozzer

    Chazzwozzer Senior Member

    As I've heard, it would be probably asked as "What number president was Bill Clinton?"


    Bill Clinton kaçıncı başkandı?
  14. Qcumber Senior Member

    UK English
    Tagalog (Philippines) can say it:
    Ika-iláng pangúlo si George Bush?

    ika- = turns a cardinal number into an ordinal one
    ilán = how much / how many
    > iláng = ditto + linker
    si = nominal marker for in-focus person's names
  15. Qcumber Senior Member

    UK English
    Sounds good. Perhaps some would make it a partitive.
    B. C. est le combientième des présidents des E.U.?
  16. awanzi Senior Member

    Gent - Oost-vlaanderen
    Italy, Italian
    In Italian I think you can't ask directly. You have to use a complete sentence. "Quantotanto" doesn't exist...

    Nell'ordine, BC quale presidente è?
    (In the order, is BC which president?)

    I can't think of a better one!
  17. StefKE

    StefKE Senior Member

    French - Belgium
    I'm afraid I do disagree with this!

    Le combientième may sound good but it is wrong although I must say many french-speakers do the mistake too.

    The right way to say it is: Le quantième président des Etats-Unis Bill Clinton était-il? OR Bill Clinton était le quantième président des Etats-Unis.

    I've just looked it up in the dictionary. They say it exists but is familiar and incorrect. ("Incorrect use for combien, le quantième")
  18. Lugubert Senior Member

    Should I for some obscure reason be interested, I would probably ask, Vilken president i ordningen är X?, like 'Which president, in order, is X', which would elicit an answer using a (perhaps) appropriate ordinal number Jag gissar att han är den fyrtioandre 'I guess he's the 42th (one)'. People away from our west coast, who have lost the gender distinction, will probably tell you Jag gissar att han är den fyrtioandra.
  19. jazyk Senior Member

    Brno, Česká republika
    Brazílie, portugalština
    That's something I've always wondered myself and I don't think there's a succint way to express it in Portuguese. :( I'd do it as Outsider suggested.
  20. Qcumber Senior Member

    UK English
    Sounds very very very odd to me.
  21. Frank06

    Frank06 Senior Member

    Nederlands / Dutch (Belgium)
    "(le/la) combientième" gives 10,000+ hits on google, and you say they are all wrong??
    And you say so because you looked it up in a dictionary? And then you say it's familiar and (hence?) incorrect?
    Does this imply that you speak unfamiliar but correct French? :)


  22. Flaminius

    Flaminius coclea mod

    capita Iaponiae
    日本語 / japāniski / יפנית
    This may be equally uninteresting, but what kind of question elicits the following answer?

    Little Fiery Dictionary finished in the Xth place in the Derby.

    I am just wondering how productive this Vilken __ ordningen construction is.
  23. Lugubert Senior Member

    I'm all for variation, so I'd just ask, Vilken plats kom LFD på? 'at which place did LFD end up?', happily disregarding any Strunk pseudo-rules in English requiring no sentence-ending prepositions.
  24. kusurija

    kusurija Senior Member

    Lithuania, K. city
    Lithuania Czech
    In Czech it's similar to the Dutch version, you would ask "Kolikátý president USA je Bill Clinton?"
    or reversed: "Bill Clinton je kolikátý(kolikátým) president(-em) USA/Spojených států Amerických?
    Answ.: BC je 42. [čtyřicátý druhý] president USA.
    (As Frank06 translated: The 'how-many-th' president of the US is BC?)

    In Lituanian it's also similar:
    Q: "Kelintas JAV presidentas yra Bilas Klintonas?"
    A: BK yra 42[keturiasdešimt antrasis] JAV presidentas.

    ご機嫌よう, Flaminius!
  25. Erebos12345

    Erebos12345 Senior Member

    Ordinals in Chinese come in the form of [第(di4)][number][counter][noun]. The noun can be excluded.

    -第三杯水 [di4 san1 bei1 shui3] The third cup of water
    第一封信 [di4 yi1 feng1 xin4] The first letter (mail) [You'll actually hear 一 pronounced as yi4 instead in this case]
    -第二首歌 [di4 er4 shou3 ge1] The second song
    -第四十二名总统 [di4 si4 shi2 er4 ming2 zong3 tong3] The 42nd president. (I think the correct counter is 名 in this case but for some reason, 位 sounds a bit better...and 总 would often be pronounced as zong2 in this type of situation)

    To ask which ordinal, just substitute the number with 几(ji3).
    -第几首歌? etc.'s my sad attempt at a translation:

    bi3 er3 ke4 lin2 dun4 shi4 mei3 guo2 de...etc.

    And as a side note, to my recollection, Chinese media usually only addressed him by his last name 克林顿.

    ^^任 (ren4) may be the best counter. I'm still not quite sure. =/
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 6, 2017
  26. Nanon

    Nanon Senior Member

    Entre Paris et Lisbonne
    français (France)
    About Stefke's suggestion (quantième), see the corresponding CNRTL entry here.

    It implies that "quantième" is a dated form when used as interrogative, so Stefke was speaking correct French after all. Both of you are right somehow (oh my God, here I am settling linguistic conflicts between Belgians :D !!!).
    "Quantième" is not dated when used as a noun, and not as interrogative, meaning the "xx" day of the month ("le quantième du mois") in administrative, financial, legalese... contexts.
    To be honest, I must say that "combientième" has no entry at all in CNRTL.

    I do insist that most of French speakers living in France, and probably in Belgium too (to be confirmed) would say "combientième", or get around the problem by saying "numéro combien" (literally "number how much"). A (colloquial, spoken) example would be "Clinton, c'est le président des États-Unis numéro combien ?"

    Here is a related topic from another forum (in French).
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2008
  27. Nizo Senior Member

    It can be done in Esperanto: Bill Clinton estas la kioma prezidento de Usono?
  28. sakvaka

    sakvaka Senior Member

    If we Finns want to know someone's placement in a competition, we can ask them Monesko olit? "Moni" means "many", -s is the ordinal number suffix and -ko is a question particle. The word doesn't have an accurate English counterpair, but *how manyeth would come quite close.

    Just as every question word, monesko can also be declinated. Monentenako tulit maaliin? lit. "As how manyeth did you cross the finish line?"

    Tagalog seems to have such a word, too:

    Is an ordinal question word used in other languages? Thanks in advance!
  29. Juan Nadie Senior Member

    Castellano s. XX - Spain
    In Spanish we would ask: ¿En qué posición/lugar quedaste/llegaste? (In which position/place did you stand/arrive?). But I can't think of anything similar to that Monesko olit?
  30. ilocas2 Senior Member

    It's well used in Czech

    kolikátý - how manyeth

    Kolikátý jsi skončil ? - How manyeth did you finish ?

    Since Czech lacks much/many distinction, it could be "how mucheth" as well.
  31. cyberpedant

    cyberpedant Senior Member

    North Adams, MA
    English USA, Northeast, NYC
    I fail to understand what you're getting at. The ending, "th," is either an old form for a third person singular present indicative verb ["doth," for example, instead of "does"] or a suffix that changes an adjective to a noun [warmth, breadth, strength, etc.] It is decidedly not a plural form. What do you expect "manyeth" or "mucheth" to mean?
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2010
  32. jazyk Senior Member

    Brno, Česká republika
    Brazílie, portugalština
    Same in Portuguese. Em que/qual posição ficaste/você ficou/chegaste/você chegou?
  33. ilocas2 Senior Member

    It's only a parallel, a word-by-word translation. Like sixth - manyeth. Certainly all know that the word "manyeth" is nonsense in English
  34. rusita preciosa

    rusita preciosa Modus forendi

    USA (Φιλαδέλφεια)
    Russian (Moscow)
    на каком месте /na kakom meste/ - on what place
    (colloquial): каким /kakim/ - something like "in what condition/state"
    four - fourth
    how many - how manyeth
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 6, 2017
  35. bibax Senior Member

    Czech (Prague)
    I should write manieth :tick: instead of manyeth :cross: .


    quot? (how many?)
    quotus? (how manieth?)

    Quota hora est? (What's the time?)
    Quotus dies mensis est? (What's the date?)


    wieviel? (how many?)
    (der) wievielte? (how manieth?)

    Der wievielte sind Sie? (How manyith are you?)
    Der wievielte ist heute? (What's the date today?)


    combien? (how many?)
    (le) combientième? (how manyith?)

    Le combientième êtes-vous? (How manyith are you?)


    hány? (how many?)
    hányadik? (how manyith?)

    Hányadika van ma? (What's the date today?)
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2010
  36. sakvaka

    sakvaka Senior Member

    Yes, this is one of the most common uses of the word.

    Monesko päivä tänään on? - Viidestoista.
  37. Tjahzi

    Tjahzi Senior Member

    Umeå, Sweden
    Swedish (Göteborg)
    Sadly, Swedish completely lacks such a word. The most common way to say which place one finished at would be Jag kom på femte plats/Jag kom femma - I arrived at fifth place/I came (in as number) five (n.).

    When talking about days, a construction identical to the English one would be used.
  38. bibax Senior Member

    Czech (Prague)
    I'll extend the question. What languages you know has the complete set of the correlative (i.e. interrogative, demonstrative, indefinite and negative) pronouns related to the order?

    Esperanto has such set for sure.


    kolikátý? - tolikátý - několikátý - (*nikolikátý)

    *nikolikátý is not in use.

    All these words are adjectivalia (they distinguish number, gender and case like the adjectives).

    German has: (der) wievielte? - (der) sovielte - ...
    Last edited by a moderator: May 12, 2011
  39. Frank06

    Frank06 Senior Member

    Nederlands / Dutch (Belgium)

    In Dutch we can use "de hoeveelste", which is pretty common (as in the question "De hoeveelste is het vandaag", word for word: the howmany-eth is it today?).

    We also have "de zoveelste", word for word "the so/that many-eth".


  40. Kannan91 Member

    There is a word "എത്രാമത്തെ" (etrāmatte) in Malayalam that I don't think can be expressed in English in any concise way. I suppose the hypothetical English equivalent would be something like *whichth, but as this word doesn't actually exist, we have to come up with circumlocutions like "Where would x come in a (chronological etc.) listing of all y's". So for example, you could say something like:

    ജോണ്‍ എത്രാമത്തെ ആങ്ഗലേയ രാജാവായിരുന്നു?
    (Jōṇ etrāmatte āṅgalēya rājāvāyirunnu?)

    "Whichth English King was John?"

    Whereas in English, you'd have to say (and this seems clumsy to me, so feel free to rephrase it more elegantly):
    "What would John's position be in a chronological list of English Kings/ in the English regnal list?"

    I was wondering how many other languages have an equivalent word.
    Last edited: May 2, 2011
  41. Rallino Moderatoúrkos

    Turkish has it.

    Kaç = how many/how much?
    Kaçıncı = which place (in a list). (lit. how manyth or maybe whichth, as you said)

    - Olimpiyatlarda kaçıncı oldu ? - Which place did he get in the olympics? (I'm not sure of the English sentence)
    - 2'nci oldu. - He got the 2nd place. (He came the 2nd (?) ).

    Another example:

    - Biz 5 kardeşiz. (We are 5 siblings. = I have 4 other siblings.)
    - Sen kaçıncı çocuksun? (lit. You are how many'th child? It means: "And you are the child number ...?", or maybe I would translate it as, how many other children had already been born before you were?)

    I thought this only existed in Turkish! :)
  42. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    Another Country
    English English
  43. er targyn Senior Member

    My dictionary says it's "in succession". Which in succession... Right?
    In Russian: какой по счёту - lit. which on count.
  44. Tjahzi

    Tjahzi Senior Member

    Umeå, Sweden
    Swedish (Göteborg)
    Some languages do indeed have this word, but some don't. Standard Swedish lacks such a word.
  45. SuperXW

    SuperXW Senior Member

    Simply speaking, "which-th" / "how many-th" can be easily uttered in Chinese by adding 第(di4) before the number. All the other structures remain the same.
    Just the red part you wrote was not right. The tone for 一 in 第一 (the first, no.1) will always be the 1st tone. Unlike in 一杯水 (one cup of water), the tone for 一 is yi4.
    Both 名 and 任 are fine here. We can also use 届.
    名 is a counter focusing on "the person", and is less formal than 任, a counter focusing on "the sequence of a formal position" or 届, a counter focusing on "the sequence of a regular event (including presidency)".
    Last edited: May 9, 2015
  46. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Praha (Prague)
    magyar (Hungarian)

    hányadik? -- ahányadik -- valahányadik / akárhányadik -- (sehányadik)
    But the question was: "ask the value of ordinal numbers"...isn't that: 第几?
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 6, 2017
  47. SuperXW

    SuperXW Senior Member

    Exactly. I meant, you can change the cardinal number into an ordinal number by adding 第 in both questions and statements. 几 means "how many" by itself, it becomes "how many-th" by adding 第.

    三名总统 = three Presidents
    三名总统 = the third President

    ? = how many Presidents?
    几名总统? = “How many-th” President?

    We don't use plural form for 三名总统/几名总统, so the latter parts don't have to change.
    Last edited: May 12, 2015
  48. Treaty Senior Member

    In Persian we use čandomīn or čandom, which are made of čand ("how many") + om (the ordinal making suffix) + īn (adjective making suffix):

    Obāmā čandomīn ra'īs-[e]-jomhūr-e Āmrikā-st?
    Obama chief-[of]-republic-of America-is?
    Obāmā ra'īs-[e]-jomhūr-e čandom-e Āmrikā-st?
    Obama chief-[of]-republic-at America-is?

    It is also possible to combine čand questions with larger numbers:

    Obāmā čehel-o-čandomīn ra'īs-[e]-jomhūr-e Āmrikā-st?
    Obama chief-[of]-republic-of America-is?

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