We get many questions along the lines of "how do I frame a question in order to elicit an ordinal number as a response?". And, inevitably, they are all closed as duplicates of:

What ordinal number reflects the position of the number five in the set of five numbers?

I want to make a question having an answer as follows:

5 is the third prime number.

The bold part is the answer. How to phrase the question?

Whose top-voted, but not accepted, answer is (summarized):

The number two is the first prime number. In the sequence of prime numbers, what is the position of the number five?

That is, this question, and this answer, are the de facto "canonical versions" of this common inquiry on EL&U.

I don't think the current "canonical" question is the best representative, and I don't think the "canonical" answer(s) are the standard, natural way native speakers would frame the question.

To illustrate my point, the answers of the ‘canonical’ question are in bold while the linked "answers" are each taken from one of the duplicate posts.

(I hope you agree that none of questions in bold could possibly lead a person to reply: I am the third eldest daughter, or, I came fifth in the race.)

Question: What ordinal number reflects the position of the number five in the set of prime numbers?

Answer: I am the third daughter of my parents.
Answer: I am the third born in my family

Question: The number two is the first prime number. In the sequence of prime numbers, what is the position of the number five?

Answer: George Washington was the first president.
Answer: You finished 5th [in the race].

Question: For the sentence “5 is the nth prime number” to be correct, what should be the value of n?

Answer: He is my second son.
Answer: I'm the second child of my parents

Question: What is the position of 5 in the sequence of prime numbers?

Answer: I'm eating the fourth apple
Answer: I am the fourth son of my father
Answer: Barack Obama is the 44th President of U.S.A

If you agree that the questions and answers are appropriate and correct; please leave the following questions closed as a duplicate of the canonical question above. However, I would suggest that we identify a new "canonical" version of this question.

List of closed questions as being duplicates of current de facto "canonical" question.

  1. Framing a question whose answer is an ordinal number

  2. How to ask about ordinal place of an offspring?

  3. How can I ask a question with the answer "I'm eating the fourth apple"?

  4. How to ask a question to get an ordinal number answer

  5. Framing a question to which you reply with "I am the third born in my family"

  6. How do you convert the sentence "George Washington was the first president." to a question?

  7. What will be the question for "he is my second son"

  8. Ask someone about their birth order

  9. Order of things

  10. How manyth son to your father?

  11. How manieth as an ordinal number question

  12. "manieth", is it acknowledged?

My preference is to elect question number 1 (Framing a question whose answer is an ordinal number) as the new canonical question, and linking all the other questions to that one. It has four practical sensible answers, and nine upvotes. It might also be an idea to merge this post with question number 2 (How to ask about ordinal place of an offspring?).

The answers in the two questions do not clash, and they are not carbon copies of each other. Moreover, users will see this wise observation: There isn't really a simple way of asking this in English, .... It also helps to explain why the terms; manieth, manyth, or nynth do not exist in the English language.

  • 3
    Oh, you want to pick a new canonical question to point all the dupes at, rather than that one. Got it. Maybe there's a way to clarify that at the outset of your post, here? Also, I'm not sure what the SE-wide policy is on re-electing a canonical question. Hmm, maybe that's something worth researching on Meta.SE. I'll do that a little later if I get time. If you had to pick your absolute #1 favorite answer p, among all these questions, which would it be? (Also, restoring my +1 now that I'm clear on what you're asking).
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Jun 17, 2015 at 12:17
  • I would recommend putting the specific call to action, however you want to phrase it, back in, and bolding it. People scan first, read the details second. Without that request (or some request), the final sentence is kinda at sea, unattached to anything preceding.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Jun 17, 2015 at 13:10
  • Do you think your suggested change will help people (those coming new asking a new duplicate question)? l'm happy for doing whatever you want to do to rearrange links and such, and if you need close votes or whatever to make it happen also happy, but please be explicit about what we all need to do to make those changes (hopefully minimal).
    – Mitch
    Commented Jun 17, 2015 at 13:19
  • 1
    @Mitch Later on I will make an entire list of closed questions as being dupes. Only one or at the very most two need to be reopened. I always feel it is pointless to direct newcomers to questions which are closed as dupes themselves. I mean, am I the only one who can see that the questions closed as dupes are not duplicates of the What ordinal number reflects the position of the number five in the set of five numbers?. I don't think so. Andrew Leach was terribly convinced by his own VTC when I pointed out the discrepancy.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jun 17, 2015 at 13:25
  • Errata corrigenda: Andrew Leach wasn't terribly convinced that the question Ask someone about their birth order was an exact duplicate of the canonical post.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jun 18, 2015 at 11:36
  • A moderator can do this quickly, right? Maybe we can ask people to vote your preference. I'm not sure...
    – ermanen
    Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 2:02
  • @ermanen if someone disagrees, they can put forth an argument in an answer. There is one downvote, and without any comment or explanation, I can only interpret it to mean everything should be left as it is. That when I tell someone my mother was one of ten siblings, the next question my interlocutor might ask will be along the lines of: "In the sequence of [prime numbers] siblings, what is the position of [the number five] your mother?" OR "What ordinal number reflects the position of your mother in the set of siblings?". Right?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 4:45
  • I'm personally abstaining from voting until I see clear consensus on what's to be done. I'd prefer the current status quo to several questions with half the necessary votes and no consensus on what's getting pointed where. (I'm also not convinced that questions' titles are as important as the fundamental concepts they seek to illuminate, so I'm not bothered that you can't answer "What ordinal number reflects the position of your mother in the set of siblings" with "Five is the 3rd prime number". Doesn't bug me. I would vote to re-point to the question with the best possible answer.)
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 20:22
  • @DanBron It's not the question titles, it's the answers it contains which are the most important, those "answers" are supposedly a guideline for askers who want to ask about the ordinal number of a family member, or the number of apples eaten—whatever. Only an experienced or native speaker would be able to reword or adapt the answers in What ordinal number reflects the position of the number five in the set of five numbers? to meet their need. Imagine for a moment that this was a website in a differnt language, in a language you were studying, that you were still getting to grips with.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 20:31
  • 1
    @Mari-LouA ELU is for native and experienced speakers. If I were studying another language, which I was still coming to grips with, I would go to the equivalent of ELL, and avoid [the equivalent of] ELU.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 20:34
  • 1
    But the reality is that ELU is filled with questions from non-native speakers. Or are you denying this? That is the reality of EL&U, like it or not. And for a non native speaker, just how "useful" would that canonical post be for you? I don't want it to be closed. Did I ever say this? You want a consensus? But who visits meta anyway. quattro gatti (four cats), that's who. If I could write a post like phenry, or medica, then I'm sure there would be more readers, and more participation but I don't have that talent. Not even the mods can be bothered to intervene.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 20:36
  • Except for Kit Z Fox who kindly edited the title. AND I am asking to reopen one and possibly merging two questions together, not reopening "several questions". Why are you insinuating this falsehood? You're being misleading.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 20:40
  • 1
    Somebody explain, write an answer and justify why this canonical post is so great, so "useful" as a reference. Because, frankly, I don't see it. Maybe I'm too plain stupid.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 20:45
  • 1
    WAIT! You say question #1 only needs one more vote? Ok! That's consensus. You can have mine now!
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 21:07
  • 1
    @curiousdannii They already are better answers than the "original/canonical" question. I mean, c'mon, anything is better than variants of: "If your older sister is second, what ordinal number are you in sequence?" and that's me paraphrasing.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jun 21, 2015 at 14:50

1 Answer 1


As you may or may not already know, the question Framing a question whose answer is an ordinal number has been reopened. The bounty (500 points) will expire in three days time tomorrow today and I will have to award it to only one user. I would very much like to share it equally among three [update 6/25/15] four users but I know this is impossible. Please upvote the answer that you believe is the most complete and thorough.

“Thank you” to all those concerned; to copy-editors Dan Bron, and Kit Z. Fox, who took an interest and Dan Bron who practically rewrote the post and made me realize the initial post lacked focus and an aim; the users who reopened the question; and to the users who have responded to ‘the call of duty’ :) by providing some excellent answers.

  • 2
    I usually don't like to take sides in other people's competitions, at least not publicly, bu given that we're aiming to have a canonical answer to the canonical question "How to frame a question to elicit an ordinal number as an answer", I do think it would be a dis-service to current and future readers to select anything except ermanen's "there is no good nor standard way to do that in English". ScotM's answer is very well-presented, cogent, and well-researched, but it's too narrowly focused on asking about birth order. That won't help people wondering about presidents or prime numbers.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Jun 23, 2015 at 18:15
  • (Especially for non-expert ELLs, as you pointed out.)
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Jun 23, 2015 at 18:16
  • It's true that Framing a question whose answer is an ordinal number (the one you want to promote) was asked a few days before How should I phrase a question that must be answered with an ordinal number (the one usually cited in closevotes). But they were both posted over 4 years ago, probably before I had enough rep to closevote. When I did have the rep, I closevoted in favour of the later one, and I don't see any reason to distort things by reopening and offering a bounty now. Commented Jun 23, 2015 at 18:23
  • @FumbleFingers distort things? I saw something that didn't make any sense. I invited users to defend the canonical post. I haven't seen any so far, and it's now it's a bit late in the day. So, you will continue to close future ordinal questions and say they are duplicates of the prime number 5 question, will you? Did you notice that many of the closed questions I have listed were also linked to the very same question I placed a bounty on?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jun 23, 2015 at 18:42
  • (cont'd)Then one day, somebody looked only at the title, and said "Framing a question whose answer is an ordinal number" is a duplicate of the question asking What ordinal number reflects the position of the number five in the set of five numbers? because if you look at the titles, they're very similar, but the content is different. Tell me if you really believe the two questions are similar. Tell me they are alike. Tell me the answers from both posts are alike and could be mistaken for one another.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jun 23, 2015 at 18:43
  • @DanBron You've already stated once your opinion as to which answer deserves the bounty, but I placed the bounty, nobody else. And I dislike being put under pressure, it's unfair, and it has the opposite effect on me. I very much like ScotM's answer, Ermanem's answer is excellent, and Jimmy's answer has added an extra note. Now if the mods disagree, (and I've got an inkling they do) and they believe the canonical post should be reinstated, I can't do anything more about it. I would think someone would've said: "Well spotted, Mari-lou!" But hey, I'm really on the verge of not caring any more.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jun 23, 2015 at 18:58
  • 1
    There are more questions asking about the birth order of siblings than there are of the Presidents of the USA.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jun 23, 2015 at 19:01
  • 2
    I won't comment on the issue of which question deserves to be the canonical one: you and I have already hashed that out on our own, and you get my reopen vote. And don't take my comments here as "pressure", please. As I said under ermanen's answer "If it were my bounty to award..."; the implication being I know it isn't. It's yours and you should do what you feel best. But it's this self-answer to your question, you said people's votes would influence you, and since I happen to have a strong opinion about this particular question, I wanted to influence the influencers, not you :)
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Jun 23, 2015 at 19:04
  • 4
    I agree with @DanBron: ermanen's answer is the closest we're going to get to canonical. However, I disagree with this methodology: I think we should post a brand-spanking-new canonical question, one which isn't asking about a specific use case (birth order or presidents or whatever). Otherwise, we're just confusing the issue when we close a question asking about presidents as a duplicate of a question that is obviously not asking about presidents.
    – Marthaª
    Commented Jun 23, 2015 at 19:07
  • But there are more question about birth order AND presidents AND prime numbers AND etc than for any individual category proper (obviously). And if we're aiming for a canonical answer, it should be general. And it would be a nice bonus if the canonical answer matched the titular question. One of the reasons I like your new canonical question over the old status quo is the titular question is more general, and therefore a better target for dupe-closing. And ermanen has answered the question in general; ScotM hasn't: though he did answer a specific question very thoroughly.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Jun 23, 2015 at 19:09
  • Mari-Lou, I admit I haven't checked the issue in detail this time around, and it's always possible my original closevote was hasty - I don't have time right now, but I will recheck. My recollection is hazy (it was a long time ago), but so far as I can recall, both those first two and all subsequent questions are from non-native speakers who just need to get their heads around the fact that English doesn't have a word suitable for use in questions framed as X is the "what-th" element? [of some sequenced list]. So to a first approximation, they're all asking the same thing. Commented Jun 23, 2015 at 21:03

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