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Patterns of combinability. § 232. Numerals combine mostly with nouns and function as their attributes, usually as premodifying attributes


§ 232. Numerals combine mostly with nouns and function as their attributes, usually as premodifying attributes. If a noun has several premodifying attributes including a cardinal or an ordinal, these come first, as in:

three tiny green leaves, seven iron men, the second pale little boy, etc.


The only exception is pronoun determiners, which always begin a series of attributes:

his second beautiful wife; these four rooms; her three little children; every second day, etc.

If both a cardinal and an ordinal refer to one head-nounthe ordinal comes first:

the first three tall girls, the second two grey dogs, etc.


Nouns premodified by ordinals are used withthe definite article:

The first men in the moon, the third month, etc.


When used with the indefinite article, they lose their numerical meaning and acquire that of a pronoun (another, one more), as in:

a second man entered, then a third

(вошел еще один человек, потом еще).


Postmodifying numerals combine with a limited number of nouns. Postmodifying cardinals are combinable with some nouns denoting items of certain sets of things:

pages, paragraphs, chapters, parts of books, acts and scenes of plays, lessons in textbooks, apartments

and rooms, buses or trams (means of transport), grammatical terms, etc.;

room two hundred and three, page ten, bus four, participle one, etc.




In such cases the cardinals have a numbering meaning and thus differ semantically from the ordinals which have an enumerating meaning. Enumeration indicates the order of a thing in a certain succession of things, while numbering indicates a number constantly attached to a thing either in a certain succession or in a certain set of things. Thus, the first room (enumeration) is not necessarily room one (numbering), etc. Compare:

the first room I looked into was room five,


the second page that he read was page twenty-three, etc.


Postmodifying ordinals occur in combinations with certain proper names, mostly those denoting the members of well-known dynasties:

King Henry VIII - King Henry the Eighth,

Peter I - Peter the First, etc.


Mind the position of the article in such phrases. It is always attached to the numeral.

When used as substitutes numerals combinewith various verbs:

I saw five of them. They took twenty.

As head-words modified by other words numerals are combinable with:


1) prepositional phrases:

the first of May, one of the men, two of them, etc.


2) pronouns:

every three days, all seven, each fifth, etc.


3) adjectives:

the best three of them, the last two weeks, etc.


4) particles:

just five days ago, only two, only three books, he is nearly sixty, etc.



The numeral first may combine with the particlevery:

the very first of them.


When they have the function of subject or predicative the numerals are combinable with link verbs, generally the verbto be:

ten were present, the first was my father we are seven, she is the second.

Occasionally they are combinable with some other link verbs:

two seemed enough, the third appeared to be wounded.

Syntactic function

§ 233. Though cardinals and ordinals have mainly similar syntactic functions they differ in certain details.

The most characteristic function of both is thatof premodifying attribute:

two rooms, the third person, etc.


In this connection it must be remembered that while the ordinals are used as ordinary attributes, cardinals with the function of an attribute govern the number of the noun they modify:

one page, but two (three, etc.) pages.


Note 1:


Quite unlike Russian, composite cardinals ending in one (twenty-one, thirty-one, two hundred and one, three hundred and twenty-one, etc.) requirea plural noun:

twenty-one pages, two hundred and one pages.

Note 2:

In numbering the items of certain sets of things cardinals, not ordinals, are used to modify the nouns denoting these things. The cardinals thus used are always postmodifying. The nouns modified do not take an article:

page three, lesson one, room thirty-five, etc.

(In Russian both ordinals and cardinals are possible in this case, though ordinals are preferable. Compare:

пятая страница and страница пять,

десятая аудитория and аудитория десять.)


Both cardinals and ordinals may have the functions ofsubject, object, predicative andadverbial modifier of time:

Three of us went home.

I saw two of them in the forest.

They were seven.

She got up at five today.


However, in all these cases a noun is always implied, that is, the numeral functions as a substitute for the noun either mentioned in the previous context, or self-evident from the situation. The only case in which the numerals (cardinals) can really have the function of subject, object or predicative is when they are used with their purely abstract force:

five is more than three; two plus two is four, etc.

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