Russian Language Blog

Ordinal Numbers in Russian Posted by on Nov 2, 2020 in Grammar, Russian for beginners

На пе́рвый-второ́й рассчита́йсь!

This phrase has got to be the only thing I remember from НВП classes in high school (Нача́льная Вое́нная Подгото́вка = basic military training). It’s part of the drill to assign either “first” or “second” to people in a line so that they can easily be divided into two groups for other drills and reformations. Our topic is going to concern basic things and numbers as well, specifically – поря́дковые числи́тельные (ordinal numbers), focusing only on numbers 1-10.


Image by anncapictures from Pixabay

It’s worthwhile to mention that поря́дковые числи́тельные can be simple, complex, and compound in form.

Simple numbers like второй (second), пя́тый (fifth), восьмо́й (eights).

Complex: семидеся́тый (70th), девяно́стый (90th), двухсо́тый (200th), пятиты́сячный (5000th).

Compound: сорок пе́рвый (41st), четы́реста пятна́дцатый (415th), три́ста се́мьдесят шесто́й (376th).

Simple ordinal numbers are easy to remember because their endings change similarly to adjectives. Masculine ending for ordinal numbers in the Nominative case is –ой– if it’s stressed and –ый– if it isn’t stressed. (Compare: пе́рвый vs второй). The only simple ordinal number that has different endings from all the others is “тре́тий” (third).

EnglishMasculine Feminine Neutral Plural
First пе́рвыйпе́рвая пе́рвоепе́рвые
Second второ́йвтора́явторо́е вторы́е
Thirdтре́тий тре́тьятре́тьетре́тьи
Fourthчетвёртый четвёртаячетвёртое четвёртые
Fifth пя́тый пя́таяпя́тоепя́тые
Sixth шесто́йшеста́яшесто́ешесты́е
Seventh седьмо́й седьма́я седьмо́еседьмы́е

Image by Kevin Sanderson from Pixabay

While ordinal numbers follow similar conjugation rules to adjectives, they can often serve the function of subjects in sentences. For example:

Пя́тый всегда́ возвраща́лся на авто́бусную ста́нцию после́дним. (Bus #5 always returned last to the bus station.)

На пе́рвое нам подали рассо́льник, на второ́е мы заказа́ли макаро́ны по-флотски, и на десе́рт мы пола́комились пря́никами с чаем. (We were served rassolnik as the first course, we ordered makarony po-flotski for the second course, and enjoyed pryaniki with tea for dessert.)


Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay

If you are curious about how ordinal numbers change depending on the case, below is a handy table with answers and examples in sentences.

Numbers and cases have been covered on this channel before but I want to keep things simple yet thorough and look at three different phrases (“first pancake”, “second cookie”, “seventh wonder”) to cover changes in the endings of ordinal numerals in all three genders.

Casesfirst pancakesecond cookieseventh wonder
Nominative пе́рвый блин втора́я пече́нькаседьмо́е чу́до
Пе́рвый блин — ко́мом. A popular Russian phrase meaning literally “the first pancake is always lumpy” that signifies the inevitability of your first try at anything being lousy.
Genitive пе́рвого блина́ второ́й пече́ньки седьмо́го чу́да
От второй печеньки не оста́лось ни кро́шки.

There were no crumbs left of the second cookie.
Dativeпе́рвому блину́второ́й пече́ньке седьмо́му чу́ду
Седьмо́му чу́ду све́та предвеща́ли бо́льше всего́ сла́вы.

The seventh wonder of the world was prophesied to be the most famous one.
Accusativeпе́рвый блинвтору́ю пече́нькуседьмо́е чу́до
На пе́рвый блин он нама́зал клубни́чное варе́нье.

He spread strawberry jam on the first pancake.
Instrumentalпе́рвым блино́мвторо́й пече́нькойседьмы́м чу́дом
Она́ наблюда́ла как её дочь вы́бежала из ку́хни со второй печенькой для свое́й ку́клы.

She watched as her daughter ran out of the kitchen with a second cookie for her doll.
Prepositional(о) пе́рвом блине́(о) второ́й пече́ньке(о) седьмом чуде
Ученика́м задали написа́ть сочине́ние о седьмо́м чу́де све́та.

Students were instructed to write an essay about the seventh wonder of the world.

This is a great starting point for getting familiar with ordinal numbers and how they change from case to case. What do you think of them so far? And do you find their grammatical similarity to adjectives helpful or confusing?

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