Numerals form a closed class

Recall that a word class is said to be closed if no more words can be added to the class. Whilst in theory it is possible to keep counting to infinity, in practice there are a limited number of numerals that are used to enable this counting process. Numerals are, therefore, categorized as a closed word class (like auxiliary verbs, determiners, pronouns, prepositions, and conjunctions).

Numerals are divided into just two types:

  1. cardinals
  2. ordinals

Cardinals

These specify numeric quantity, e.g.

one

two

three

four

five… [and so on]

Example utterances that incorporate cardinals include the following.

I’ll have two of those, please

he ran around the track four times

you’ve got one more chance

Ordinals

These numerals specify the order of items, e.g.

first

second

third

fourth

fifth… [and so on]

Here are some examples of their use.

right, that’s the first button sewn on

Steve came second in his race

take down your tree on twelfth night