Russian Language Grammar

    Usage of Some Cardinal and Ordinal Numerals

1.  Ноль (нуль) is used in technical language, as well as in daily life, for instance with temperatures:

Десять градусов ниже нуля.

Ten degrees below zero.

Поезд отходит в ноль пятнад­цать.

The train leaves at 12:15 a.m.

"Ноль" is followed by the genitive:

ноль целых и две десятых

two  tenths;  lit.:   zero  whole (parts) and two tenths

"ноль внимания"

no attention (whatsoever)

2.  Один, одна, одно, одни may function as indefinite pronouns or adjec­tives – meaning (a) certain, some;  alone, only, nothing but:

Я видел одного человека.

I saw a certain man.

Она живёт одна.

She lives alone.

Все дети были здесь. Одна Вера не смогла прийти.

All the children were here. Only Vera couldn't come.

Приехали одни мои знакомые.

Some of my friends have arrived.

Note:  In the plural, sometimes the intonation alone gives the clue to the meaning.

С нами ехали одни американцы.

Some Americans were traveling with us.

    But, with одни slightly stressed:

С нами ехали одни американцы.

Only Americans were traveling with us.

Remark:   Одни is used with nouns which have no singular (pluralia tantum).

одни часы

one watch

одни сутки

one day (and night)

3.    In counting, the word раз is used instead of “один”: раз, два, три etc.   "Раз" means once (and also times).

один раз


несколько раз

several times

4.   The usage of ordinal numerals in Russian does not differ essentially from the English usage, except with some expressions pertaining to dates and to the time of the day.


The case of a date is determined by the structure of the sentence:

Сегодня первое марта. (nominative)

Today is March 1st (the first of March).

Он родился в тысяча девятьсот десятом году. (prepositional)

Не was born in 1910.

One particular instance should be noted: When something happens on a certain date of the month, this date is in the genitive case (likewise, the month and the year which follow).

Он приехал первого марта.

Не arrived on March 1st.

Она родилась пятого апреля тысяча девятьсот десятого года.

She was born on April 5, 1910.

Time of Day

Both cardinal and ordinal numbers are used to express the time of the day. This can be best explained by examples:


Который час? – Два часа.

What time is it? – Two o'clock.

В котором часу? – В час.

At what time? – At one.


2:01 – одна минута третьего

(lit:   one minute of the third)

4:10 – десять минут пятого

(lit:   ten minutes of the fifth)

5:15 – четверть шестого

(lit.:   quarter of the sixth)

8:20 – двадцать минут девятого

(lit.:   twenty minutes of the ninth)

9:30 – половина десятого

(lit.:   half of the tenth)

Note:   Compare the English constructions:

Year 1904 – beginning of the 20th century

Year 825 – first part of the 9th century, etc.


   (c) As in English, after the half hour, a different expression is used:

3:35 – без двадцати пяти (минут) четыре

(lit.:   four without 25 min.)

6:40 – без двадцати (минут) семь

(lit.:   seven without 20 min.)

7:45 – без четверти восемь

(lit.:   eight without a quarter)

10:56 – без четырёх минут одиннадцать

(lit.:   eleven without 4 min.)

12:59 – без одной минуты час

(lit.:   one without one minute)

Remark:   Expressions like: десять пятнадцать, два сорок, etc. (ten fifteen, two forty, etc.) are quite frequently used to indicate time.

Notes :

   (a)   Colloquially, пол is used instead of половина:


half past one

   (b)    Very frequently, in the second half-hour, "round figures" are used without the word минут: без пяти три; без десяти четыре; без двадцати пяти десять.

On the other hand, “минуты” and “минут” are used with figures below five:   без одной минуты часбез двух минут шесть.

   (c)    "At what time" is expressed:

With в + accusative:

Я приехал в десять минут первого.

I arrived at ten minutes past twelve.

Я уехал в четверть второго.

I left at quarter past one.

With в  + prepositional – used only with "половина".

Мы приехали в половине пятого.

We arrived at half past four.

Without в:

Вы приехали без десяти час.

You arrived at ten minutes to one.

Они уехали без двадцати семь.

They left at twenty minutes to seven.