You want to say 2nd in French and you have learnt that you can say either second or deuxième.
It is the only ordinal number where you have the choice between two words in French.
Of course, both mean the same and yet, there is a difference. Fortunately, it is very simple 🙂
If there are only two items in the list, you will choose to say second. Thus, you can say:
- C’est la seconde et dernière fois que j’y vais ! (It’s the second and last time I’m going there!)
- Je ne suis allé que deux fois en Afrique dans ma vie. La première fois, j’étais enfant mais la seconde fois, j’étais déjà un vieil homme. (I only went twice to Africa in my life. The first time I was a child, but the second time, I was already an old man.)
However, if the list is longer and contains several items, i.e. at least three, then choose the word deuxième:
- Elle part toujours en vacances la deuxième semaine d’août. (She always goes on holiday in the second week of August.)
- Il a bien couru. Il y avait huit participants et il a fini deuxième ! (He did well in the race. There were eight runners and he arrived second!)
- C’est la deuxième fois qu’ils visitent la France, mais ils ont l’intention d’y revenir aussi souvent que possible. (It’s the second time they have visited France but they intend to come back as often as possible.)
You may hear the word deuxième being used instead of second, but this will more rarely happen the other way round. Such is the French usage!
Remember to pronounce these two words properly: the X in deuxième in pronounced like a Z, whilst the pronunciation of the C in second is the same as the G sound you hear in in the word go.
Here you are, it is that simple! Now you know when to say second and deuxième in French. Congratulations! 🙂