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Numerals and Gender of nouns


2.6 Numerals

Numerals include all numbers, whether as words or as digits. They may be divided into two major types. CARDINAL numerals include words like: 
 

nought, zero, one, two, 3, fifty-six, 100, a thousand

ORDINAL numerals include 
 

first, 2nd, third, fourth, 500th 

We classify numerals as a subclass of nouns because in certain circumstances they can take plurals: 
 

five twos are ten 
he's in his eighties

They may also take the
 

the fourth of July 
a product of the 1960s

And some plural numerals can take an adjective before them, just like other nouns: 
 

the house was built in the late 1960s 
he's in his early twenties 
the temperature is in the high nineties

In each of our examples, the numerals occur independently, that is, without a noun following them. In these positions, we can classify them as a type of noun because they behave in much the same way as nouns do. Notice, for example, that we can replace the numerals in our examples with common nouns: 

 

he is in his eighties

~he is in his bedroom

the fourth of July

~the beginning of July

a product of the 1960s

~a product of the revolution

 

 

Numerals do not always occur independently. They often occur before a noun, as in  
 

one day 
three pages 
the fourth day of July

In this position, we classify them as determiners, which we will examine in the next section. 

Finally, see if you can answer this question: 

Is the subclass of numerals open or closed?

2.7 The Gender of Nouns

The gender of nouns plays an important role in the grammar of some languages. In French, for instance, a masculine noun can only take the masculine form of an adjective. If the noun is feminine, then it will take a different form of the same adjective - its feminine form.  

In English, however, nouns are not in themselves masculine or feminine. They do not have grammatical gender, though they may refer to male or female people or animals:  

 

the waiter is very prompt

~the waitress is very prompt

the lion roars at night

~the lioness roars at night

 

  

These distinctions in spelling reflect differences in sex, but they have no grammatical implications. For instance, we use the same form of an adjective whether we are referring to a waiter or to a waitress:  

 

an efficient waiter

~an efficient waitress

 

  

Similarly, the natural distinctions reflected in such pairs as brother/sister, nephew/niece, and king/queen have no consequence for grammar. While they refer to specific sexes, these words are not masculine or feminine in themselves.  

However, gender is significant in the choice of a personal pronoun to replace a noun:  

 

John is late

~He is late

Mary is late

~She is late

 

  

Here the choice of pronoun is determined by the sex of the person being referred to. However, this distinction is lost in the plural:  

 

John and Mary are late

~They are late

John and David are late

~They are late

Mary and Jane are late 

~They are late

 

  

Gender differences are also manifested in possessive pronouns (his/hers) and in reflexive pronouns (himself/herself).  

When the notion of sex does not apply -- when we refer to inanimate objects, for instance -- we use the pronoun it:  

 

the letter arrived late 

~it arrived late

 

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