Here is the question: I want to know what is the ordinal place of someone in her family. For example, I'd say:

I'm the second child of my parents. and afterwards, I'd like to ask something along these lines:

What nth child are you? 

(So that I'm expecting something like first, second, third, etc. child as answer). Just wondering how the question should be asked.

  • @Colin, do you really think that it is appropriate to ask 'What is the ordinality of you in your family?'?! If not, why duplicate? – buggygra Oct 15 '13 at 17:14
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    It's a duplicate because this is one of this site's most frequently-asked questions. – Andrew Leach Oct 15 '13 at 17:21
  • @AndrewLeach the subject of my question is a human not a prime numbers so merely being about ordinal hardly makes mine a duplicate. – buggygra Oct 15 '13 at 17:27
  • The subject isn't the issue. It's still a question about ordinals. You'd ask the question the same way. – Kit Z. Fox Oct 15 '13 at 18:16
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    @AndrewLeach and what would be wrong with that? I see users bumping twenty questions at a time because they've created a new tag, or because they have a peeve against pejorative words, or because some questions are actually mistagged. Does that mean retagging "old" questions is to be discouraged? – Mari-Lou A Jul 30 '15 at 8:11

There isn't a simple way of asking this in English, which may partly explain why people don't often employ that specific question.

I sometimes start by asking 'Do you have any siblings?' And if they say something like, 'I have two brothers and a sister', but don't tell me which are older and which are younger and, if I am still interested in finding out, I might say something like 'Are they older or younger than you?'. By now I would expect that they would have clarified where they are in the family.

It sounds complex, but to begin by asking 'Which numbered child are you in your family'is not only awkward linguistically, but perhaps too direct and a bit rude as an opening question.

I would be interested to know if you are Asian, as is my wife. Among the Chinese, for example, this question of where a person sits in the family hierarchy is more important than it is in Europe or America. Younger siblings use honorific titles for their older brothers and sisters, a bit like auntie and uncle, only different words to that.


The statement below can be addressed as "formal".

What birth order are you?

This question has been used in psychology "check in sheets" when obtaining client information.

You also have some non-formal ones which are:

Which one are you among your brothers and sisters? Which one are you among your siblings?

You can also say "Are you the youngest in your family", to which you would reply. Yes, no, and then provide the appropriate information addressing your nth position.


You could derive their position by asking

How many older siblings do you have?

And then just adding 1 to the result.

Edit:: Following the similar question link, one could follow a similar answer with

Your oldest sibling is the first child. Which child are you?
  • But I'm looking for a question with an ordinal answer like: I'm the second. :) – buggygra Oct 15 '13 at 17:07
  • Ah, gotcha. Overlooked the answer requirement. – agweber Oct 15 '13 at 17:09
  • As regards your second suggestion, you might actually be talking to the the oldest sibling. – TrevorD Oct 15 '13 at 19:17
  • In which case I would personally respond with "I'm the first child", but I guess others may respond differently. – agweber Oct 15 '13 at 20:17

If your request is for the human factor, versus strictly ordinal, you can ask in a conversational way:

"So where are you in the birth order of your siblings?"


"Where do you fall in the birth order in your family?"

I would think most native speakers would understand the question, as long as it in the context of a conversation about birth order and not parachuted in from the blue. ;-)

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