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How should I phrase a question that must be answered with an ordinal number (e.g., the third prime)?

How do you convert the sentence:

George Washington was the first president.

into a question, preferably one in the form:

****Missing Phrase**** president is George Washington?

If no equivalent sentence that is not awkward sounding exists, why is there no English equivalent for the word how-many-th?

  • Is or was ? Aug 5, 2012 at 17:51
  • 1
    Yes, I saw that question. However, I provided a specific format. This was not answered in that post. Thanks for pointing it out anyway.
    – Helix Quar
    Aug 5, 2012 at 17:54
  • @James The answer is that there is no common and grammatical equivalent in English. "How many'th" or "which positioned" do not really work. It's best to simply structure the question differently. Aug 5, 2012 at 17:57
  • 2
    Wow. I can't believe the English Language doesn't have a word for that.
    – Helix Quar
    Aug 5, 2012 at 18:08
  • 2
    Damn language! I say we trade it in for German. Aug 5, 2012 at 18:34

2 Answers 2


What was George Washington's place in the sequence [order?] of U.S. presidents.


The obvious answer to a question phrased like that,

[MissingPhrase] president was George Washington?

is "What number president was George Washington?"

A: George Washington was the first president. George Washington was president number one.

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