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Primero and tercero become primer and tercer before a noun (apócope)

Some ordinal numbers (i.e first, second, third...) in Spanish have a shorter form when they are placed before a singular masculine noun. This affects two ordinal numbers:

  • Primer (first)
  • Tercer (third)

Have a look and listen to the following examples:

El primer candidato pasó la entrevista con éxito.
The first candidate completed the interview successfully.

Este es el tercer coche que compro este año.
This is the third car I have bought this year.

Feminine nouns

The shorter form is not used in front of feminine nouns:

La tercera candidata pasó la entrevista con éxito.
The third (female) candidate completed the interview successfully.

Es la primera vez que nos besamos.
It is the first time we have kissed.

Plurals

The short form is not used when accompanying feminine or masculine plural nouns either:

Los primeros años de universidad son siempre duros.
The first years at University are always hard.

Estas serán las primeras navidades sin Cristina.
These will be the first Christmas without Cristina.

Pronoun Usage

The long form of these adjectives (primero / tercero) are used as pronouns (i.e. not accompanying a noun) they do not change and retain their long form.

Have a look:

Fui el primero en llegar a la meta.
I was the first (one) to reach the finish line.

- ¿A dónde va usted? -Voy al tercero.
-Where are you going? -I am going to the third (floor).

For a list of ordinal numbers in Spanish see  Adjetivos ordinales

To see other cases of apocopation see

Learn more about these related Spanish grammar topics

Examples and resources

El primer candidato pasó la entrevista con éxito.
The first candidate completed the interview successfully.


Este es el tercer coche que compro este año.
This is the third car I have bought this year.


- ¿A dónde va usted? -Voy al tercero.
-Where are you going? -I am going to the third (floor).


Fui el primero en llegar a la meta.
I was the first (one) to reach the finish line.


La tercera candidata pasó la entrevista con éxito.
The third (female) candidate completed the interview successfully.


Estas serán las primeras navidades sin Cristina.
These will be the first Christmas without Cristina.


Es la primera vez que nos besamos.
It is the first time we have kissed.


Los primeros años de universidad son siempre duros.
The first years at University are always hard.


Q&A

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