Introduction to Numerals.

Numerals express the relation of number and quantity. As with pronouns, they are relational words. In English grammar, under the heads of abstract nounsOpens in new window; numerals are referred to numeral adjectives, and numeral adverbs.

Numerals are usually classed with adjectivesOpens in new window and called numeral adjectives. As with pronounsOpens in new window, they can be divided, according to their signification and form, into substantiveOpens in new window, adjective, and adverbial numerals; as— “a hundred; ten men; tenthly.”

Classification of Numerals

Numerals are sub–divided into various forms. The most common are the two forms: Cardinal Numerals (or Cardinals), and Ordinal Numerals (or Ordinals).

  1. Cardinal Numerals — Also singly known as Cardinals, the Cardinal Numerals express number in its simplest form, and answer the question “how many?” as, one, two, three, four, and so on indefinitely. The word one is naturally singular. So, the rest are naturally plural. With cardinals, we can express the repetition of a substance in space, and are properly attributive. Cardinal numerals are sub–divided into the following:
  2. Important Hint  
    Note that the terms “Cardinal Numerals” or “Cardinals,” as used in the articles above are the pluralized forms and refer to more than one numeral. However, the singular form is either “Cardinal Numeral” or “Cardinal”.

    A.  Abstract Numerals — The abstract numerals express two relations of quantity. They express the preceding numbers used substantively; as— the ones, the tens. They also by words express relation of quantity derived from the LatinOpens in new window; as— unity, trinity; or by words derived from the GreekOpens in new window; as— monadOpens in new window, duadOpens in new window.

    B.  Distributive Numerals — The distributive numerals express relation of quantity as— one by one, two by two, fifties etc. These are expressed in English only by adverbial phrases.

    C.  Iterative Numerals — The iterative numerals express relation of quantity as— once, twice, thrice. These are basically the genitives of the abstract numerals used adverbially. The series continues by means of adverbial phrases; as— four times, five times, etc. and answers to the question “how often?”

  3. Ordinal Numerals — Also known as Ordinals; the ordinal numerals indicate a series of entities, and answer the question “which one in the series?” as— first, second, third, fourth etc. The ordinal first is a superlative form derived from the root fore. The word second, contrary to the analogy of the other ordinal, is derived from the Latin secundus.
  4. The remainder of the ordinals are derived from the cardinal numerals by the addition of the sound of th, subject to slight variations. In third th becomes d. In fifth the vowel is shortened. However, in the third there is the transposition of the letter r.

    For the most part, adverbs of order are derived from the preceding, by means of the adverbial affix ly; as— firstly, or, better put, first, secondly, thirdly, etc. and lastly. In the higher numbers it is necessary to use an adverbial phrase; as, In the eleventh place, in the twelfth place.

  5. Multiplicative Numerals — Also singly known as Multiplicatives; the multiplicative numerals indicate the number of parts of which a whole is composed, and answer the question “how many fold?” as— single, double, triple, or four-fold or quadruple.
  6. Partitive Numerals — The partitives include — half, a third, a quarter, or fourth part. They are mostly used as substantivesOpens in new window.
  7. Indefinite Numerals — These include many, few, some, all, much, less, several, whole, enough, other, another, only, alone, more, any, none, aught, naught, something, nothing, somewhat, etc.
  8. Indefinite Quantitatives — These include great, little, some, all. For the most part, they are taken from the indefinite numerals, sometimes by different words; as— great and little, or large and small (comp. many and few); sometimes by a different construction; as— some water (comp. some men); all the house (comp. all houses).

    The indefinite numerals and quantitatives form antitheses; as— many opposed to few; great to little; large to small; all to some.
  9. Compound Numerals, Plurals and More.

    Compound Numerals — In compound numerals of the ordinal series, it is only the last number that takes the ordinal termination; as— the thirty-third year; the five hundred and twenty-fifth year. We may compare this with our mode of adding a genitive termination to such phrases as the King of England: the King of England’s crown. As we consider King of England a sort compound substantive, and add the mark of the genitive to the end of it, so we consider five hundred and twenty–five a compound adjective, and are satisfied with having the mark of its class put on to the end. When units are combined with tens, they are placed either first, with “and,” or last, with–out “and” (four–and–twenty, or twenty–four); but after a hundred the smaller number is always last; as— “a hundred and twenty–four”.

    Plural Forms — The cardinal numerals take the plural form, though all cardinals except one are naturally plural. Consider the lines below from Wordsworth and Shakespeare:

    “The sun has long been set,
    The stars are out by twos and threes,
    The little birds are piping yet
    Among the bushes and the trees.”

    “We are not to stay altogether, but to come to him where he stands by ones, by twos, and by threes.”