If I haven’t mentioned this before, I’m a big advocate of a vocabulary first approach to learning Arabic. Arabic grammar has to be used and understood in context. I don’t do a lot of grammar posts on this site right now because I think grammar will be easier to understand once you know a good number of words and phrases.
When it comes to ordinal numbers, we need to get a little bit into the grammar in order for everything to make sense. Hopefully, this will make sense.
How We Use Ordinal Numbers
We use ordinal numbers to order things (nouns) or to order our actions (verbs).
Last week, we used ordinal numbers to give directions in order. As you may have noticed, this means that we were using ordinal numbers with verbs. For example, when we say, “First, brush your teeth.” We are actually saying “Brush first.”
In this example, we don’t need male and female. This week, we’ll use ordinals to put some things in order. So, we’ll need to break out our male and female ordinal numbers.
Working With Male and Female Ordinals
If you’re a homeschooler, one easy way to bring ordinals into your home is to say the ordinal for each lesson, so we’ll use the word for lesson for our male ordinals.
الدَّرسُ The Lesson
If you’re not a homeschooler, you could use the word “step” to practice ordinals. So we’ll use the word for “step” for our female ordinals.
الخُطْوَةُ The Step
You can use this word for steps in a set of directions or actual steps. As an aside, my littlest just started taking his first steps, so we’ll be happily counting those this week.
In order to count our lessons and our steps, we simply put the thing first, and the ordinal number second.
َُالدَّرسُ الأَوَّل The first lesson
Keep in mind, these are not full sentences. When you start speaking Arabic at home, you don’t have to have fully Arabic sentences all of the time. Just add what you can when you can. It’s perfectly fine to say “َالدَّرسُ الأَوَّل is math.”
For our female ordinal, we’ll say:
الخُطْوَةُ الأُولَى The first step
Notice that there is a very slight difference between the male and female.
Now, it’s time for you to do some work. Here’s a sheet that you can print to start organizing things during your day.
This short video contains the male and female pronunciations.
If you need some ideas, here’s a few male and female things you can order with your kids:
Male things to order: shoes, cups, buttons, days, fingers, toes. This last one can actually be tricky but try anyway.
Female things to order: toys, cars, stairs. Note, the word for steps on stairs is not the same as the one we used today. Try to find it. If you have trouble, let me know in the comments.
Please share any other ideas you have for things to order around the house in the comments below.
A note for more advanced speakers, ordinals can also be used without the definite article. In this case, they are placed in idaafa. If you’re in an Arabic speaking country, you may be asked أَوَّلَ مرةٍ؟ meaning “Is it your first time?” or if you ask where something is in an office, someone could respond ثالث بابٍ meaning “the third door.”
If you have any other questions about ordinal numbers, let me know in the comments. Next week, we’ll add some describing words to our morning.