When objects are placed in order, we use ordinal numbers to tell their position. If ten people ran a race, we would say that the person that ran the fastest was in the first place, the next student was in second place, and so on. Remember, ordinals are numbers we use when we want to put things in order.
Ordinal numbers are those used to indicate order or position, such as "first," "second," "third," etc. Cardinal numbers are those used to count, such as "one," "two," "three," etc.
So when we say that someone is the "third person in line," we are using an ordinal number. And when we say that there are "three people in line," we are using a cardinal number.
It's important to remember that ordinal numbers are always used with "the," whereas cardinal numbers are not.
Here's a helpful tip: to remember the difference between ordinal and cardinal numbers, think of the word "cardinal" as related to the word "card" (as in a playing card). So if you can remember that ordinal numbers are related to the word "order," and cardinal numbers are related to the word "card," you'll never get the two confused again!
There's a big difference between ordinal and cardinal numbers, even though they both deal with numbers. Ordinal numbers are used to show order or rank, while cardinal numbers are used to show quantity.
For example, let's say you're listing the Top 10 movies of the year. The movies would be listed in order, like this:
See how the "st," "nd," "rd," and "th" are all ordinal numbers? They show the order of the movies from first to last.
But what if you just want to list the 10 best-selling books of the year, without ranking them? In that case, you would just use cardinal numbers:
See how there's no order here? Just 10 books that sold well.
So when you're dealing with numbers, remember: ordinal numbers show order, while cardinal numbers show quantity.