# "め" in "五匹め" implies some sort of "ordering"? Where it makes sense, the default is "time"?

`め` after a counter implies some sort of ordering, right?

Say that you are shopping for a cat.

scenario #1
You look into a room with 5 cats in it. Does saying `五匹めが好きです。` mean anything?
In that context, saying `I like the fifth one.` sounds ridiculous.

scenario #2
You look into a room with 5 cats in it. Then you have a dialogue:

A-さん: 黒くって小さいのが好きですか。
B-さん: そうですね。私の好みよく知っているよね。五匹めが好きです。

Could that mean that "B" likes the smallest black cat? The ordering is implied to be size?
`I like the fifth one.` does not make sense.
`I like the fifth **smallest** one.` makes sense.
`五匹めが好きです。` only makes sense when you use context to imply in size as the ordering criteria.

scenario #3
You are, one by one, shown 5 cats. Then you say `五匹めが好きです`。 And that means that you like the 5th cat that was shown to you? Showing the cats sequentially tees-up time as the criteria. There is no need to establish context.

scenario #4
You are, one by one, shown 5 cats. Then you have a dialogue:

A-さん: 黒くって小さいのが好きですか。
B-さん: そうですね。私の好みよく知っているよね。五匹めが好きです。

Now, we have 2 possible ordering criteria. Since size is explicitly established as the immediate context, implied "size ordering" supercedes the default "time ordering"?

• 目 (め) is used turn a number into an ordinal number, eg "the fifth one". Ordinal numbers do imply an ordering, which is sequential, ie one after another. Apr 13, 2016 at 19:19
• You're really over-complicating things. 「目」 carries no special meaning distinguishable from English. It denotes plain ordinal numbers. When you would use ordinal numbers in English you could use them in Japanese as well. Just imagine all of those situations you described being in English, and you got your answer. Apr 13, 2016 at 19:29
• @konishiki 'I like the fifth one' is a complete sentence in English under ordinary analysis. Apr 13, 2016 at 20:43
• Sure, it's a complete sentence. But let's say someone said to you "I like the fifth one" without any context. Your response would probably be something like "The fifth what?" And the reason for that is because you can't tell what set of items they're talking about unless ① it's specified or ② it's clear from context.
– user1478
Apr 13, 2016 at 20:56
• Japanese is a contextual language, but not so much so that you can say stuff out of nowhere and expect people to know what you're talking about. Using 小さい in the previous sentence does not automatically mean you will use that to rank them. It sounds like just a small detail more than anything else. Apr 13, 2016 at 21:29