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Uses of Numbers, Fractions and Multipliers

English Cardinal Numbers (one, two, three, etc.) and Fractions (half, one-third, a fifth, etc.) are usually not difficult for English language learners to grasp.

We’ll spend the remainder of this entry delving briefly into each, as well as the uses of multipliers.

  1. Cardinal Numbers

    The Cardinal Number 'one' is used before singular count nouns, as 1a). The other cardinal numbers (two, three, ninety-nine, etc.) are used with plural count nouns, as shown in 1b) and 1c).

    Examples include:

        • There’s only one seat left on the whole bus.
        • Liam’s three granddaughters are visiting from Australia.
        • Meteorologists are predicting the worst storm in fifty years.
  2. Fractions

    Fractions can occur with singular and plural count nouns, as illustrated in 2a) and 2b), as well as non-count nouns, as is the case in 2c).

    Examples include:

        • Half the team is injured.
        • Two-thirds of the players were late for practice.
        • I’ve finished about one-third of my homework.
    1. The examples in 2) and 3) illustrate an important fact about fractions:

      They normally do not appear immediately before a head noun. They are usually followed by an articleOpens in new window, a possessive determinerOpens in new window, or 'of'.
        • I’m willing to pay half the amount.
        • *I’m willing to pay half amount.
        • He’s half your age.
  3. Multipliers

    Multipliers, such as double, triple, and four times, occur with singular and plural count nouns, as is the case in 4a) and 4b), as well as with non-count nouns, as is in 4c).

        • He’s twice the man you are!
        • For some reason, she’s earning three times our salaries.
        • The price you are paying is five times the cost of production.
    1. Multipliers must always be followed by some other determiner, as shown in 5).

        • He received an offer that was double the amount that she got.
        • *He received an offer that was double amount that she got.
  4. Ordinal numbers

    The ordinal numbers generally have a one-to-one relation to the cardinal numbers; that is, the ordinal first corresponds to the cardinal one, second corresponds to two, and so on.

    Ordinal numbers occur before singular and plural count nouns, as illustrated in 6a) and 6b). They are preceded by another determiner, often the definite article.

        • The tickets will go to the tenth caller.
        • My parents just celebrated their 50th anniversary.
        • The next step will be to conduct a physical checkup.
        • I already have two bicycles, but I have to buy another one so that my son can go cycling with us.

    The determiners next, last, other, and another are included in the category of Ordinal Numbers because they often have the same function as these numerical ordinals; that is, they designate a place in an ordered sequence (e.g., first, second, next, last), as illustrated in 6c) and 6d).

    As shown in 6d), another can sometimes mean the same thing as an additional when it appears before the ordinal one.

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  • References
    • The Teacher's Grammar of English with Answers: A Course Book and Reference Guide Types of Determiners (Pg 189-190) By Ron Cowan.

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