I believed that there is no question word in English for making a question when you want know the X in sentences like "Barack Obama is the Xth president of the US.".

*Question words are words like "what", "who", "how many" and so on.

Then I came across this word "manieth", which does not seem to be in any dictionaries I have. Is this even a word? If it is, how acknowledged is it?

Futhermore, if there is any word or expression that means the same thing as "manieth", I would like to know what it is.

  • Now that I've read that question, I'm curious if "what number~" sounds acceptable/natural for British people. But I guess I'll post that as another question.
    – Sindry
    Feb 22 '13 at 17:06
  • 2
    No, there isn't. English question constructions are deficient in many ways, and that's one. If it became a common kind of question, it'd develop short idioms, but one rarely needs this kind of specificity in practice, and there are many other ways to get the information, like Where is Obama in the order of Presidents? or Which president was he? The 57th? or the like. Feb 22 '13 at 17:37
  • Yes. All the more so in British English, which has less of a tendency to speak of such order anyway, and would find it hard to do so (how far back the line do you go with monarchs, and which do you count? should Sir Robert Walpole really be considered the first Prime Minister, or should the term be proleptically applied to earlier First Lords of the Treasury or earlier Lords High Treasurer?).
    – Jon Hanna
    Feb 22 '13 at 17:47
  • I didn't know this was such a famous question in English. I should have looked harder for duplicates. This question can be closed now.
    – Sindry
    Feb 22 '13 at 18:43

I have never heard the word "manieth". Of course people invent new words all the time. But this one doesn't seem to serve much of a useful purpose. How would you use it in a sentence? Would such a sentence be more clear than one using more conventional words?

Like, it is common to ask a question like, "How many people came to your party?" How would the word "manieth" help? Like, "What was the manieth of the people who came to your party?" I don't see how that's any better.

In the case of your which-president question, sure, there is no commonly-used word or phrasing in English to turn that into a clear question. English-speakers stumble over that one all the time. Technically, the word "ordinal" meets the requirement, as in, "What is the ordinal number of Mr Obama's presidency?" But no one actually says that so you'd have to explain it, at which point you might as well find a different way to ask the question. I think most people would understand something like, "What number president is Mr obama?" Or you could say, "How many presidents were there before Mr Obama?" (I think many people would ask it as, "Which president is Mr Obama?", but that's very ambiguous. Someone might be inclined to answer "the one with the health-care plan" or "the one from Kenya" or whatever.)

I'd be happy to hear if someone else has a way to ask that question that is, (a) unambiguous, and (b) would be clear to most English-speaking people. i.e. a way to phrase it that uses words that most people would understand.

  • On the contrary. While manieth or manyth is certainly not in common use, it has been coined many times as part of the obvious phrase how manyth.
    – Colin Fine
    Feb 22 '13 at 18:07
  • Does this answer show that a native speaker of English does not feel inconvenient without the word like "manieth"? If that's the case, that means English speakers can come up with questions without using the concept of "manieth", which I hardly can because my mother language has a word that means "how manieth". Speakers of the Languages without the concept of "maneith" can construct the questions which the speakers of the languages that have a word for "manieth" make using that word. I should bring this matter over to the linguistics forum.
    – Sindry
    Feb 22 '13 at 18:37

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