Ordinal and cardinal numbers - differences between French and English usages

Look at these names of kings, queens, popes:

Le pape Benoît seize a démissionné.
The pope Benedict the sixteenth resigned.

Elisabeth deux est la reine d'Angleterre.
Elisabeth the second is queen of England.

Louis quatorze était surnommé Le Roi Soleil.
Louis the fourteenth's nickname was The Sun King.

Notice that cardinal numbers (deux, trois, quatre...) are used for royalty where ordinals (second, third, fourth...) are used in English, except for 1st = Ierpremier:

François Ier protégea Léonard de Vinci.
François I protected Leonardo Da Vinci.

 

ATTENTION:
You use tiers (masculine) or tierce (feminine) instead of troisième when expressing a fraction, a portion of something (= one third of), as opposed to a rank or an order (= third out of).

Nous devons utiliser une tierce personne comme témoin.
We must use a third party as a witness.

Il y a beaucoup de pauvreté dans le Tiers-Monde.
There is a lot of poverty in Third World countries.

J'ai bu un tiers de la bouteille.
I drank a third of the bottle.

versus

Je suis arrivé troisième du marathon.
I came third in the marathon.

Mon troisième enfant est né en septembre.
My third child was born in September.

 

Examples and resources

Je suis arrivé troisième du marathon.
I came third in the marathon.


Elisabeth deux est la reine d'Angleterre.
Elisabeth the second is queen of England.


J'ai bu un tiers de la bouteille.
I drank a third of the bottle.


Louis onze était un bon roi.
Louis the eleventh was a good king.


François Ier protégea Léonard de Vinci.
François I protected Leonardo Da Vinci.


Nous devons utiliser une tierce personne comme témoin.
We must use a third party as a witness.


Le pape Benoît seize a démissionné.
The pope Benedict the sixteenth resigned.


Mon troisième enfant est né en septembre.
My third child was born in September.


Louis quatorze était surnommé Le Roi Soleil.
Louis the fourteenth's nickname was The Sun King.


tiers/tierce


Il y a beaucoup de pauvreté dans le Tiers-Monde.
There is a lot of poverty in Third World countries.


Q&A

Bill

Kwiziq community member

8 December 2018

1 reply

Nous devons utiliser une tierce personne comme témoin.

Bonjour - i'm confused as to why this is tierce instead of troisième.  The lesson stated that tierce is used for fractions or portions and troisième is used for rank or order.  A third party witness sounds like a ranking/ordering to me, and not a fraction or portion.

Would appreciate clarification.

Merci

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

8 December 2018

8/12/18

Hi Bill,

If you look at my answer to Robin, it might clarify things for you....

Robin

Kwiziq community member

5 November 2018

4 replies

In the example "J'ai bu un tiers de la bouteille". The audio speaker is a woman and the word bottle is feminine-why use the masculine version tiers?

Thank you.

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

21 November 2018

21/11/18

Hi Robin,

In the case of one third , meaning 33.33% (1/3) of something, the word tiers is 'un mot invariable' and doesn't agree with the noun it applies to(or the person speaking)

e.g. 

Un tiers des électeurs ne s'est pas déplacé pour voter = One third of the electorate didn't go and vote

Un tiers de la famille a été décimé par les inondations One third of the family was decimated by the floods

Un tiers de la foule était composé de femmes = A third of the crowd was made up of women

Hope this helps!

Robin

Kwiziq community member

21 November 2018

21/11/18

I appreciate the reply in regard to tiers, but tierce is used once in an example and I am not sure when I should use it. 

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

8 December 2018

8/12/18

Hi Robin,

The adjective 'tiers/tierce' will only be used in certain expressions like 'tierce personne' or 'tierce partie' to mean a third party -

Also in the following expressions -

Le tiers-monde The third World

Le Tiers-état = The third estate/tier of society 

The noun 'tierce' is used in some card games to denote three cards following each other.

It has very limited use...

Hope this helps!

Robin

Kwiziq community member

8 December 2018

8/12/18

Merci!

David

Kwiziq community member

17 July 2018

3 replies

The use of “tiers” for Third World seems strange - I have never hear anything that made me think that Third World was a fraction as opposed to

an additional category after The West and the Eastern Bloc - and thus I would have thought “troisième”

Alan

Kwiziq community member

19 July 2018

19/07/18

Hi David,

I'm sure you're right that the "third" in "Third World" refers to an order rather than a fraction.

I think the reason that "tiers" is used is probably historical. Although "Third World" is a relatively recent term it was coined from the much older expression "Third Estate" - "le tiers-état".

I imagine at the time when that term was created the language was rather different and "tiers" could be used to mean 3rd in sequence.

 

David

Kwiziq community member

19 July 2018

19/07/18

Thank you - since a Frenchman coined the term, based on Third Estate, (at least per Wikipedia) - I can’t argue.  I’m learning that many things I have to accept don’t have such a clear basis - but I have to accept and learn them!

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

20 July 2018

20/07/18

Thank you Alan for this excellent answer.

I was discussing this question posed by David with some French people yesterday as I have to admit I had never asked myself since in my mind it only designates a status and I learnt that there is another term 'le quart-monde'.

After a bit of research it appears that 'le quart-monde' was coined in 1969 to designate people under the threshold of poverty. It is wonderful to learn something new. If you are interested, take a peak at:

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quart-monde

all in French I am afraid but good practice.

Paul

Kwiziq community member

9 March 2018

3 replies

tiers/tierce

Paul

Kwiziq community member

9 March 2018

9/03/18

I am having a lot of trouble submitting questions! In brief, can you please explain again about "un tier", a masculine (noun) and une tierce, a feminine noun or is it an adjective? You use tiers (masculine) or tierce (feminine) instead of troisième when expressing a fraction, but une tierce de personne comme un temon can't be a third of a person.

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

12 March 2018

12/03/18

Bonjour Paul !

The expression is une tierce personne as in a third party in English. It's usually used in a legal context for example.

I cannot really think of other cases when we use tierce, as tiers is the one you used when expressing a fraction, hence in most cases:
un tiers, deux tiers...
Un tiers du monde    -> a third of the world

I hope that's helpful!
Bonne journée !

Paul

Kwiziq community member

12 March 2018

12/03/18

Merci Aurélie. 

Mary

Kwiziq community member

2 February 2018

3 replies

Why would you say, J’ai bu un tiers de la bouteille, when bouteille is feminine?

Chris

Kwiziq community member

2 February 2018

2/02/18

Hi Mary,

Yes, "la bouteille" is feminine but "un tiers" is masculine. So "un tiers de la bouteille".

-- Chris (not a native speaker).

steven

Kwiziq community member

19 April 2018

19/04/18

So then why not say "J'ai bu une tierce de la bouteille"? 

Michelle

Kwiziq community member

31 October 2018

31/10/18

But tierce is used in the other example to agree with the feminine personne. So, like Steven, I'm not understanding the reasoning here. Doesn't tiers/tierce, agree with the noun like premier/première and second/seconde do?

Gio

Kwiziq community member

3 January 2018

2 replies

We must use a third party as witness. (as a witness)

Gio

Kwiziq community member

3 January 2018

3/01/18

Also "There is a lot of poverty in the Third World." (in Third World countries) To say "in the Third World." implies theres only one Third World. The way the sentence is structured seems incomplete. You could also say "There is a lot of poverty in the Third World country known as Mozambique"

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

3 January 2018

3/01/18

Bonjour Gio ! Thanks very much for these remarks :) In French, it's perfectly correct to use "le Tiers Monde" as a general expression for all under developed countries, but I agree it sounds weird in English. I've now edited these examples accordingly. Merci et à bientôt !

Mary Anne

Kwiziq community member

8 October 2017

1 reply

I would think that VIII should be among the answers for the Henry The Eighth question.

Ron

Kwiziq community member

9 October 2017

9/10/17

Bonsoir Mary Anne, I can certainly understand why it would appear that way; however, in French it is a little different. Here is the explanation from the lesson: «Notice that cardinal numbers (deux, trois, quatre...) are used for royalty where ordinals (second, third, fourth...) are used in English, except for 1st = Ier / premier:» Given this explanation, Henry VIII (The Eighth) would become Henry huit. I hope that you find this useful and that the answer covers you question. Bonne chance et bonne continuation,

Surendra

Kwiziq community member

15 May 2017

1 reply

tiers or tierce?

It was not mentioned in the lesson, when to use 'tiers' and when to use 'tierce'. Which one to use when?

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

15 May 2017

15/05/17

Bonjour Surendra ! "tiers" is masculine and "tierce" is feminine : "une tierce personne" / "le tiers monde" I've added a note to the lesson ! Merci beaucoup et à bientôt !

Robert

Kwiziq community member

12 November 2015

3 replies

François Ier protégea Léonard de Vinci.

The sound for 'François Ier protégea Léonard de Vinci.' says 'François premier protégea Léonard de Vinci.' Is this an error?

Laura

Kwiziq language super star

12 November 2015

12/11/15

Bonjour Robert, No, it's not an error. Ier is the Roman number I (one) followed by er - it's just another way of writing 1er, the abbreviation of premier.

Rebeca

Kwiziq community member

26 April 2017

26/04/17

THE RULE: Notice that cardinal numbers (deux, trois, quatre...) are used for royalty where ordinals (second, third, fourth...) are used in English, except for 1st = Ier / premier.

Nigel

Kwiziq community member

16 January 2018

16/01/18

The pronunciation in "François Ier protégea Léonard de Vinci" and "J'ai bu un tiers de la bouteille." is not as clear as the pronunciation of other speakers in this lesson.

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