ordinal numbers

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Rich
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Joined: Sun Feb 11, 2018 3:07 pm
Location: Ohio, USA (near Cleveland)

ordinal numbers

Post by Rich »

My question is about the use of Italian ordinal numbers as “nouns”.

I have noticed that sometimes Italian ordinal numbers are masculine nouns -primo, secondo, terzo, and at other times Italian ordinal numbers are feminine nouns - prima, seconda, terza.

Can anyone please explain how to know when to use the masculine noun and when to use the feminine noun.

Thank you
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calum
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Location: Scozia

Re: ordinal numbers

Post by calum »

Hi Rich,

as far as I'm aware, Italian ordinal numbers are adjectives and not nouns so you would use them like any other adjective, ensuring agreement with the relevant noun.

For example:
la prima volta
la seconda frase
il primo ministro
il terzo libro

... etc.
Rich
Posts: 17
Joined: Sun Feb 11, 2018 3:07 pm
Location: Ohio, USA (near Cleveland)

Re: ordinal numbers

Post by Rich »

Dear Calum,

Thank you very, very much for your help.

In addition to listing ordinal numbers as adjectives, my Collins dictionary also has separate listings for them as nouns. For example, "primo" (first) is listed as a masculine noun, "prima" (first) is listed as a feminine noun. This is why I am confused.

Rich
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calum
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Location: Scozia

Re: ordinal numbers

Post by calum »

Can you provide some examples of them being used as nouns?
I'm struggling to come up with any but that could be down to old age!
Rich
Posts: 17
Joined: Sun Feb 11, 2018 3:07 pm
Location: Ohio, USA (near Cleveland)

Re: ordinal numbers

Post by Rich »

Hi Calum,

“Prima gli Italiani” is a quote I saw on-line.

I’m thinking it means - “Italians First”

I looked up “prima” in my dictionary and discovered that this word is listed as a feminine noun.

This makes sense (to me) because “prima” is not inflected to agree with “ Italiani” as in saying - “gli Italiani primi” (the first Italians).

I looked up primo, prima, secondo, seconda, terzo, terza in my dictionary and discovered both masculine and feminine nouns listed.

So, I am quite confused. But, being confused is not really anything new for an old guy like me.

Thanks again, Rich
Peter
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Location: Horsham, West Sussex, England

Re: ordinal numbers

Post by Peter »

Hi Rich

You are correct. Prima gli italiani means Italians first, as in putting their countrymen first. It seems to be the clarion cry of the new politics in Italy. However, I will not go into politics here!

Whilst the ordinal numbers are generally used as adjectives or adverbs, they can be used as nouns. For example, il secondo can be used to refer to someone who is second-in-command. Il primo can mean premiere.
Rich
Posts: 17
Joined: Sun Feb 11, 2018 3:07 pm
Location: Ohio, USA (near Cleveland)

Re: ordinal numbers

Post by Rich »

Hi Peter,

Thank you for your help. It is greatly appreciated.

Do you, by any chance, know why the feminine noun “prima” (not the masculine noun “primo”) is used in the expression “Prima gli Italiani”

I am still trying to understand the difference between the feminine noun “prima” and the masculine noun “primo”. I know they both mean “first” - but how to decide which to use?

Thank you,

Rich
Peter
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Location: Horsham, West Sussex, England

Re: ordinal numbers

Post by Peter »

Rich wrote: Wed Jun 20, 2018 6:23 pm Do you, by any chance, know why the feminine noun “prima” (not the masculine noun “primo”) is used in the expression “Prima gli Italiani”
Prima in this case is an adverb, not a noun. Think of the phrase as a truncated sentence, with the full sentence being 'Italians come first', for that is effectively what 'Italians first' means.
Rich wrote: Wed Jun 20, 2018 6:23 pmI am still trying to understand the difference between the feminine noun “prima” and the masculine noun “primo”. I know they both mean “first” - but how to decide which to use?
Which one you use depends very much on context. Going back to my previous post, you could have la seconda to mean second-in-command if you had a group of women. I have a feeling that if the group was made up of both men and women, then the masculine form may be used, even if the second-in-command were female. Where the context is not clear, then you would use the masculine form.

All seems a bit woolly....................
Dylan Thomas
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Re: ordinal numbers

Post by Dylan Thomas »

As Peter has said above, the ordinal numbers can also be used as nouns (we call them “aggettivi sostantivati”, i.e. adjectives working as nouns). Here are some examples:

Mi piace tantissimo la nona (sinfonia) di Beethoven.
[I love Beethoven’s Nineth (Symphony).]

Mi figlio frequenta la terza (classe).
[My son is in the third grade.]

Mi spiace, signore, ma lei non è autorizzato a viaggiare in prima (classe).
[I’m sorry, sir, but you’re not allowed to travel first class.]


In the phrase “Prima gli italiani”, “prima” is an adverb. It is used figuratively and means “more important.”

Prima la famiglia, poi il lavoro.
[My family first, then my job. = My family is more important than my job.]

Father to son: Prima i compiti per casa, poi il divertimento.
[Homework first, then you can go out and have fun.]

I hope I haven’t confused you more.

DT
Rich
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Joined: Sun Feb 11, 2018 3:07 pm
Location: Ohio, USA (near Cleveland)

Re: ordinal numbers

Post by Rich »

A huge "Thank You" to both Peter and Dylan Thomas. Your answers have helped me so much!! Thank you so much!

Rich

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