Ordinal Numbers in Bulgarian

15.06.2012 § 1 Comment

I hope your counting in Bulgarian is significantly up to snuff to tackle the thorny issue of ordinal numbers (“first”, “second”, etc.) which are crucial for correctly saying dates in Bulgarian.

The reason ordinal numbers are a thorny issue is that unlike cardinal numbers, they are gendered. We remember, class, that Bulgarian has three genders: masculine, feminine and neuter. So, there are three forms of “first” in Bulgarian:

  • M: първи (púrvi)
  • F: първа (púrva)
  • N: първо (púrvo)

The nice thing is, once you learn the ordinal forms in Bulgarian, you can accord to gender simply by changing the suffix: -и for masculine, -а for feminine and -о for neuter.

Let’s count to 10 in ordinal numbers (in the masculine):

  1. *първи (púrvi)
  2. *втори (ftóri) <- note the change in pronunciation of the letter в (v) at the start of a word to (f) before a voiced consonant
  3. *трети (tréti)
  4. *четвърти (chetvúrti)
  5. пети (péti)
  6. шести (shésti) <- note that the (t) is pronounced in the ordinal, even though it’s not in the cardinal шест (shes)
  7. *седми (sédmi)
  8. *осми (ósmi)
  9. девети (devéti)
  10. десети (deséti)

You can replace the bolded with -a or for feminine and neuter, respectively. It is important to note that for any other numbers (incl. 11 onwards), adding the ordinal suffix at the end of the cardinal number is enough. There are only six exceptions, marked by an asterisk above:

  • 1: едно -> първи
  • 2: две -> втори
  • 3: три -> трети
  • 4: четири -> четвърти
  • 7: седем -> седми
  • 8: осем -> осми

There’s a slight pronunciation glitch when we get to some of the shortened numbers in the teens. For instance, 12 (дванадесет) is pronounced dvanáyse. The word still ends in a т when written down, so to add the masculine -и, we write дванадесети. The addition of -и means we now have to pronounce the т, giving us something like dvanáyseti*, which is a bit of a mouthful. So, instead, we drop the e, shortening to three syllables, and say dvanáys’ti. This is also the case for the teens (тринадесети is pronounced trináys’ti), as well as the decades (двадесети is pronounced dváys’ti).

The only thing left to mention is that when we get to complex numbers such as “twenty-second”, the ordinal form of the units is used as before:

  • cardinal -> ordinal
  • 22: двадесет и две -> двадесет и втори
  • 47: четиридесет и седем -> четиридесет и седми
  • 69: шестдесет и девет -> шестдесет и девети

Once you know ordinal numbers, you are ready to tackle dates.


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