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Framing a question whose answer is an ordinal number

Let me explain the scenario.

Say you have 'n' number of siblings (brothers/sisters) in your family, i.e your parents have n+1 children. A random person wants to know whether you are the 1st or 2nd child, or so on… without knowing apriori the value (n+1). Is it possible to frame a question for this? This has puzzled me for a long time because in many Indian languages it is possible to frame a question which would prompt a response like this:

I am the 3rd child of my parents

Note: English.se warns me that "The question you're asking appears subjective and is likely to be closed." But asking it anyway :)

  • @chaos:Thanks! Just what I was looking for.Maybe I should delete my post.
    – itisravi
    Mar 4 '11 at 17:24
  • Deleted would mean "does not belong on this site". This question clearly does belong, it's just that it's been answered already. So it should be closed, but not deleted, as that helps prevent dupes from being posted in the future. See this meta post for further details.
    – RegDwigнt
    Mar 4 '11 at 18:14

Interesting - I can think of several ways actually, but they would all be considered somewhat rude or brusk.

Where are you in your sibling hiearchy or what number child were you

A bit more vauge, but likely to trigger the wanted answer - Are you the number 1/youngest/oldest child ?

I think it is more a cultural thing - it feels like it demeans either your position or your siblings to reduce them to a number. Also the anglo-european background tends to go 'First Born' - everyone else.

I think it's a neat question actually.


Hmm, as a native english speaker, I think that normally you'd ask a question along the lines of "Are you the oldest of your siblings?" or "Are you the middle child?" or "Are you the youngest of your siblings?"

Even if a stranger may not know, the only way to propose a question which would give the intended results would be to guess. Presumably, you wouldn't simply say "no" without also explaining your position.

If there are only three children, you can respond with "Yes/No, I am the oldest" "Yes/No, I am the middle child" or "Yes/No, I am the youngest." If you have more than two siblings, it begins to get more complicated. In that case, you'd simply have to say "I am the nth child of my parents." Technically, you can say that even when you have one sibling, though it sounds terrible and it's usually avoided if possible for this reason.


There's no concise way that I can think of to ask this in English without presupposing a position, such as "Are you the oldest child?" But you could ask something like "in what position of the birth order of your siblings are you?" (Although you may very well have to follow that up with "first-born, second child, ...?" in order to further clarify the question.)

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