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How Do You Say Dates And Months in German? Ordinal Numbers Explained

Ordinal numbers in German are used to indicate the order or position of items in a sequence, such as the first, second, third, etc. They are commonly used when talking about dates, ranks, positions, or any context where the order matters. Here's a guide on how to use ordinal numbers in German.

Basic Rules for Forming Ordinal Numbers:

First to Nineteenth:

  • The ordinal numbers from "first" to "nineteenth" are unique words in German. With the exception of first (in German, erste), third (dritte), seventh (siebte), you simply add the ending -te to the cardinal numbers in German

  • "first" in German is "erste"

  • "second" is "zweite"

  • "third" is "dritte"

  • "third is "vierte"

  • "fifth" is "fünfte"

  • ...

  • "nineteenth" is "neunzehnte"

Twentieth and Beyond:

  • For numbers from 20th and beyond, the pattern becomes more regular. You typically take the cardinal number and add "-ste" to the end.

  • "20th" is "zwanzigste"

  • "21st" is "einundzwanzigste" (literally, "one and twentieth")

  • "22nd" is "zweiundzwanzigste" (literally, "two and twentieth")

Using Ordinal Numbers in Dates:

When expressing dates in German, two things are different than in English. First, not only the days of the month but also the the months themselves are often represented by an ordinal number in German. So, as the year has twelve months, you use the ordinal numbers from first (erste) to twelfth (zwölfte)

  • January (in German, Januar) is the first (erste)

  • February (Februar) is the second (zweite)

  • March (März) is the third (dritte)

  • April (April) is the fourth (vierte)

  • May (Mai) is the fifth (fünfte)

  • Juni (June) is the sixth (sechste)

  • July (Juli) is the seventh (siebte)

  • August (August) is the eighth (achte)

  • September (September) is the ninth (neunte)

  • October (Oktober) is the tenth (zehnte)

  • November (November) is the eleventh (elfte)

  • December (Dezember) is the twelfth (zwölfte)

So, in German, you could either say "der 2. Juli" or "der 2.7." (der zweite siebte) for the 2nd of July.

Second, we need to distinguish between using them in the nominative case (i.e. as the subject of the sentence) or in other cases. When used in the nominative case, the endings are the same as mentioned above.

  • "Heute ist der 6. January"- Today is the 6th of January

However, after the preposition "am" (in English, on the) which is combination of an and the dative article "dem", you have to add an -n at the end because of German adjective declension rules.

  • "Er arbeitet am 7.1. nicht" - He doesn't work on the 7th of January.

In formal German, for instance when arranging appointments, you would also encounter the accusative case for the date. For example, here are appointments I would offer to clients in German. Since all dates are masculine, we use the article "den".

  • Am Montag, den. 8.1. um 10-11 Uhr - On Monday, the 8th of January at 10-11am

  • Am Dienstag, den 9.1 um 15-16 Uhr- On Tuesday, the 9th of January at 3-4pm

  • Am Mittwoch, den 10.1. um 9.30-10.30 Uhr - On Wednesday, the 10th of January at 9.30-10.30am

Using Ordinal Numbers in Other Contexts:

  • "The first chapter" is "das erste Kapitel."

  • "He is the second in command" is "Er ist der Zweite in der Befehlskette."

Notes on Spelling:

  • In German, ordinal numbers are generally written in lowercase letters, except for the first word in a sentence.

  • Hyphens are often used when spelling out ordinal numbers (e.g., "zwanzigste" or "einundzwanzigste").

Remember that ordinal numbers in German agree in gender and case with the noun they modify. For example,

"der erste Tag" (the first day) and "die erste Nacht" (the first night).

Practice and exposure to various contexts will help reinforce the use of ordinal numbers in German.




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