I am a Swedish English learner and I am always looking to improve and enhance my English language skill. Although sometimes it is hard, as when you think in your own language and translate it to English it sometimes doesn't make any sense for an native English speaker.

Me and my friend who also is Swedish disscused a simple meaning which makes sense in Swedish but not in English, I believe. When you want to inform in what place you ended up in a competition or in a game for example. My friend wrote "I came 4th" or #number 4th" I believe this is a poor word usage and incorrect usage of the word come in past tense as the word come has a slightly different meanings in some grammatical meanings than it has in Swedish. It is perfectly fine to say "Jag kom 4:a" in Swedish as it would be directly or roughly translated to "I came 4th" in English, which if I am correct doesn't exactly make sense.

However I believe a better way to say which place you ended up in is to say "I was placed 4th" or "I came in 4th place" although the second meaning I am not sure is correct either. My friend dosent agree with me when I sugguest the first meaning "I was placed 4th" as it is not exactly what he meant to say, and also you can say this meaning the same in Swedish "jag var placerad 4:a" and it makes sense so it is easier to translate.

So what I want to know is if I am correct about my assessment? And if so, is there a better way to say "I was placed 4th" that resembles "I came 4th" in English? I apologize for my grammar or poor writing skills here, I want to perfect my English. Any suggestion is appreciated.

  • In American English, we say I came in fourth. Or maybe: I won 4th place. None of the ones you suggest, or even the ones in the answers (so far), are idiomatic. Jan 29 at 23:47

3 Answers 3


"I came fourth in the race" is perfectly normal English. However we don't mix 'ordinal' and 'cardinal' numbers in the same reference so "I came number fourth" is completely wrong.

It might be just about possible to say "I came number four in the race" but it would not be normal. If we wanted to use the cardinal number for some reason we would usually say "I came in at number four on the race" though this is less common than using the ordinal and saying "I came fourth"

  • What if it is not a race but something else, as a first person shooter like CS:GO you cant really say "I came number fourth in the scoreboard"? Jan 29 at 8:38
  • 1
    You can't say number fourth in any context, Dennis. Jan 29 at 9:10
  • As @KateBunting says you can't use "number fourth" in any circumstances and be grammatical. The word "number" is only ever used with cardinal numbers (one, two, three and so on). Ordinal numbers (first, second, third and so on) stand on their own. Similarly you can't use cardinal numbers on their own when talking about relative positions: that is you can't say "I came four", you have to say "I came fourth", "I came in at number four", "I was number four" or some other variant.
    – BoldBen
    Jan 29 at 10:38
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    In North America, saying I came ❓fourth in the race in response to a question like How did you do at your race? is unlikely to be perceived as fully grammatical in that context. Normally, it would always have to be I came ɪɴ fourth here, or I came ɪɴ ᴀᴛ fourth place. It is not impossible to produce a context where what you wrote is grammatical, but here it would never be used to mean something related to racing or other forms of competition, not without the extra particles. I mail-ordered a new suit, but it arrived piecemeal: the jacket came first, the trousers came second.
    – tchrist
    Jan 29 at 16:06
  • Lexico has "3.1 Achieve a specified place in a race or contest." "She came second" in both its UK and US English versions. Intuitions can be useful, but authoritative references are better.
    – Stuart F
    Jan 31 at 9:58

"I was placed 4th" – This is a passive construction – someone placed you in the fourth position. This is used for competitions in which judges decide who is best, e.g. a dog show. The verb to place is the same as in "I placed the glass on the table." -> To put someone or something in a particular position.

"I came 4th" – This is an active construction. This is used where the place in the competition is determined by the physical place at the winning post.

In this "to come" is similar in meaning to "to arrive".

There is probably not a better way of expressing these ideas.

  • 1
    I don't believe I came ❓fourth is grammatical in this context of racing, at least not in North America.
    – tchrist
    Jan 29 at 16:10
  • @tchrist Will the person who came in fourth please come forth?
    – DjinTonic
    Jan 29 at 18:55
  • @DjinTonic Very old and weak joke: "He said 'come forth', but I came fifth and won a teacake". See, I told you it was weak.
    – BoldBen
    Jan 29 at 22:32

In AmE, I would say: "I was 4th" or "I finished 4th" or "I came in 4th (place).

"I came 4th" is the same grammatical construction as the acceptable "I arrived 4th at the finish line," but sounds not quite right in a sports context because the destination is unstated. If you say, "I came 4th," I might wonder where exactly you ended up. If you say "I came in 4th," you are expressly referring to the finish line or the top honors and so this is clearest and best.

In any case, I don't think I would even blink an eye if a native speaker finished a race and blurted out: "Did I come first?"

In talking about a game with no time element and no movement order, it is a little strange to be talking about "coming in first." In a chess tournament, you could say "you came in second," as if referring to a list of winners posted on a wall or in an official book, but it would be better to say: "I got second place."

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