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BS''D
8.4  Hebrew Ordinal Numbers

Hebrew Ordinal Numbers
Ordinal numbers tell the “order” or priority of elements in a series, for example, first, second, third, and so on.

Properties of Ordinal Numbers
Ordinal numbers have two properties that you will need to learn:

  1. Ordinals take both masculine and feminine forms. Masculine numbers modify masculine nouns, and feminine numbers modify feminine nouns.
  2. Ordinal numbers function as attributive adjectives, which means they follow the noun they modify and agree in gender, number, and definiteness.

Masculine Ordinals

Note that the first form, rishon, comes from the shoresh for head (rosh), meaning chief or beginning (of a series). The other forms share the same shoresh with their corresponding cardinal number and end in Chireq Yod.

Feminine Ordinals

Note that all the forms (except the first form) end in a Tav. In fact, these feminine forms are the same as their masculine counterparts except for the Tav ending.

Usage of Ordinal Numbers
Ordinal numbers behave like attributive adjectives, which means they follow the noun they modify and agree in gender, number, and definiteness.

Examples:

Jewish Days of the Week
The Hebrew day (yom) begins at sundown, when three stars become visible in the sky (the rabbis reasoned that the day begins at sunset based on the description of God’s activity in creation, “and the evening and the morning were the first day,” Genesis 1:5).

The Jewish week (shavu‘a) begins on Sunday and ends on Shabbat:

Three Stars
The Jewish Week

Ordinals Beyond Tenth
Hebrew does not provide distinct terms for ordinals greater than the tenth place, but uses cardinal numbers instead.

Section Exercises

  • Memorize the feminine and masculine numbers from first to tenth.
  • Be able to recite the Hebrew names of the days of the week.
  • Understand how ordinals greater than “tenth” are formed.

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