Is a definite article THE needed in front of ordinal numbers in sentences like these:

4th case can be used with or without prepositions. If you are doing something, it’s likely this meaning will need to be expressed in 4th case. This is a preposition that can only go with 2nd case. The nouns and adjectives in the sentence will require 2nd case.

Are ordinal numbers always preceded with THE or are there any exceptions?

  • Unless '4th case' and '2nd case' are fixed expressions I'm unfamiliar with here (eg the password is all in lower case), which I doubt, formal usage (but not headlinese) demands that 'the' be used to precede them for cases mentioned in context. Commented Mar 28, 2018 at 19:55
  • The sentences you quote do not make up a paragraph that makes any sense, so I’m guessing they’re separate sentences. They all seem to be describing grammar, though. For the particular cases you give here, it is perhaps more salient that English does not use ordinal numbers for grammatical cases—all cases, in all languages, are instead given individual names; e.g., “This is a preposition that can only go with the dative case”. Commented Mar 29, 2018 at 0:27

2 Answers 2


In English "the" is not required before ordinal numbers. For example:

"A 1st place winner is allowed to race in the next heat."

In fact, often no articles are present before noun phrases. This is referred to as "zero articles". I have listed several links describing zero articles at the end of this post.

From the Wikipedia article (listed below)

The zero article is also used in instructions and manuals. In such cases, the references in the text are all definite, and thus no distinction between definite and indefinite has to be made.

I believe this is relevant to the question asked as the original question sounds like instructions on how to use 2nd and 4th cases.


  • Thank you for your reply. But could you please proofread the text above that I provided ? Should I add "the" in front of ordinal numbers every time?
    – Gaga
    Commented Mar 28, 2018 at 18:08
  • A determiner is not required before the ordinal numbers, but feel free to put one in if you feel like (they are really inexpensive). I would probably put a "the" at the first "2nd case" in your text only because you are describing which case to choose from. Otherwise it's fine. However, some style guides (such as the Chicago Manual of Style and the Associated Press Stylebook) suggest spelling out the ordinal number (e.g. Chicago 9.6: Spell out ordinal numbers up to (and including) “hundredth”). So, "Fourth case can be...", "...with the second case", and so on.
    – m_a_s
    Commented Mar 28, 2018 at 18:40
  • 1
    So you would consider 'President Obama and First Lady were welcomed by Her Majesty' correct in formal writing? / 'This is fourth time you have been late'? Commented Mar 28, 2018 at 20:00
  • The original question asks "Are ordinal numbers always preceded with THE or are there any exceptions?" I supplied a grammatically correct response showing the opposite. Why is this voted down?
    – m_a_s
    Commented Mar 28, 2018 at 21:04
  • @EdwinAshworth In a language like German there aren't any other 2nd cases to choose from, so why is "the" required. It's like a name rather than a title. I wouldn't say "The Robert" I would say "Robert". Of course, mayby years of taking violin lessons and hearing something like "No, use 4th position for these notes" has irreparably damaged my grammar.
    – m_a_s
    Commented Mar 28, 2018 at 21:07

I would use the in your examples. But there will be examples not using articles, perhaps like

First place is better than second, but coming third still wins a medal.

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