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Numerals indicate numbers and positions. We distinguish cardinal numerals such as vierfour, which are used to count things and which behave syntactically more or less like determiners, and ordinal numerals such as vierdefourth which are formed from cardinal numerals by means of suffixation and which behave more or less like absolute adjectives. Apart from the numbers 1-12 and certain powers of 10, Dutch cardinals are complex; the same holds for all ordinals. In all cases, the semantics is construction-specific.

Table 1
cardinal ordinal
1 een eerste (*een-ste)
2 twee twee-de
5 vijf vijf-de
10 tien tien-de
11 elf elf-de
12 twaalf twaalf-de
15 vijf-tien [vijf-tien]-de
16 zes-tien [zes-tien]-de
50 vijf-tig [vijf-tig]-ste
51 [een-en-[vijf-tig]] [een-en-[vijf-tig]]-ste
100 honderd honderd-ste
151 honderd-[een-en-[vijf-tig]] [honderd-[een-en-[vijf-tig]]]-ste

Fractions like drievierdethree fourth are constructions built from cardinals and ordinals, with a special semantics.


The grammar of numerals can be described by formal means (as shown for cardinals by Van Katwijk (1965), Van Katwijk (1968)) with a compositional semantics (as shown for cardinals by Brandt Corstius 1965) that is construction-specific (see also Booij 2010).

The class of numerals is defined semantically. Syntactically, there are considerable differences between subgroups: cardinal numerals behave more or less like articles, whereas ordinal numerals are syntactically like absolute adjectives.

Cardinal numerals such as vier4, veertienfour-ten14 and vierenveertigduizendvierhonderdvierenveertig44444 are built from finite numerals and a few constitutive rules. See here.

Ordinal numerals are built from a cardinal numeral plus suffix, which is either -de/də/ or -ste/stə/, depending on the last part of the base ordinal; see here.

Fractions are built from ordinals and cardinals; decimal fractions (drie komma zeventhree comma seven3.7) have their own grammar. See here.

Moreover, Dutch has a fair number of constructions involving numerals, including time expressions such as vijf voor half zesfive before half six5:25 a.m./p.m. or 17.25 and (more formal) vijf uur vijfentwintigfive hour twenty-five5:25 a.m./p.m. or 17.25. These are treated briefly here.

  • Booij, Geert2010Construction morphologyOxford/New YorkOxford University Press
  • Brandt Corstius, Hugo1965Automatic translation of numbers into DutchFoundations of Language159-62
  • Katwijk, Ab van1965A Grammar of Dutch Number NamesFoundations of Language151-58
  • Katwijk, Ab van1968A Functional Grammar of Dutch Number NamesBrandt Corstius, H. (ed.)Grammars for number namesFoundations of Language. Supplementary series7Reidel
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