How to name numbers in English
Contents |
Cardinal numbers
0 | zero / nought / oh | ||
1 | one | ||
2 | two | 20 | twenty |
3 | three | 30 | thirty |
4 | four | 40 | forty (there is no “u”) |
5 | five | 50 | fifty |
6 | six | 60 | sixty |
7 | seven | 70 | seventy |
8 | eight | 80 | eighty (there is only one “t”) |
9 | nine | 90 | ninety |
10 | ten | ||
11 | eleven | ||
12 | twelve | ||
13 | thirteen | ||
14 | fourteen | ||
15 | fifteen | ||
16 | sixteen | ||
17 | seventeen | ||
18 | eighteen (there is only one “t”) | ||
19 | nineteen |
If a number is in the range 21 to 99, and the second digit is not zero, one should write the number as two words separated by a hyphen.
21 | twenty-one |
25 | twenty-five |
32 | thirty-two |
58 | fifty-eight |
64 | sixty-four |
79 | seventy-nine |
83 | eighty-three |
99 | ninety-nine |
In English, the hundreds are perfectly regular, except that the word hundred remains singular regardless of the number preceding it (obviously, one may on the other hand say “Hundreds of people flew in,” or the like)
100 | one hundred |
200 | two hundred |
300 | three hundred |
400 | four hundred |
500 | five hundred |
600 | six hundred |
700 | seven hundred |
800 | eight hundred |
900 | nine hundred |
So are the thousands, up to nine thousand.
1,000 | one thousand |
2,000 | two thousand |
3,000 | three thousand |
4,000 | four thousand |
5,000 | five thousand |
6,000 | six thousand |
7,000 | seven thousand |
8,000 | eight thousand |
9,000 | nine thousand |
Starting with 10,000, the numbers become more complex.
10,000 | ten thousand |
11,000 | eleven thousand |
12,000 | twelve thousand |
13,000 | thirteen thousand |
14,000 | fourteen thousand |
15,000 | fifteen thousand |
16,000 | sixteen thousand |
17,000 | seventeen thousand |
18,000 | eighteen thousand |
19,000 | nineteen thousand |
20,000 | twenty thousand |
21,000 | twenty-one thousand |
30,000 | thirty thousand |
85,000 | eighty-five thousand |
100,000 | one hundred thousand |
999,000 | nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand |
1,000,000 | one million |
In informal English, exact numbers larger than one million are seldom named, except perhaps for dramatic effect.
There is more than one way of forming intermediate numbers. One way is for when you are counting something. Another way is for when you are using numbers as labels. The second column method is used much more often in American English than British English. The third column is used in British English, but rarely in American English (although the use of the second and third columns is not necessarily directly interchangeable between the two regional variants).
“How many marbles do you have?” | “What is your house number?” | “Which bus goes to the high street?” | |
101 | “A hundred and one.” | “One-oh-one.” Here, “oh” is used for the digit zero. |
“One-oh-one.” |
109 | “A hundred and nine.” | “One-oh-nine.” | “One-oh-nine.” |
110 | “A hundred and ten.” | “One-ten.” | “One-one-oh.” |
117 | “A hundred and seventeen.” | “One-seventeen.” | “One-one-seven.” |
120 | “A hundred and twenty.” | “One-twenty.” | “One-two-oh.” |
152 | “A hundred and fifty-two.” | “One-fifty-two.” | “One-five-two.” |
208 | “Two hundred and eight.” | “Two-oh-eight.” | “Two-oh-eight.” |
334 | “Three hundred and thirty-four.” | “Three-thirty-four.” | “Three-three-four.” |
Note: When writing a check (cheque), the number 100 is always written “one hundred”. It is never “a hundred”.
Note that in American English, it is non-standard to use the word and before tens and ones. It is instead used as a verbal delimiter when dealing with compound numbers. Thus, instead of “three hundred and seventy-three”, Americans usually say (and write) “three hundred seventy-three”. For details, see American and British English differences.
Here are some approximate large numbers in American English:
QuantityWrittenPronounced
1,200,000 | 1.2 million | one point two million |
3,000,000 | 3 million | three million |
250,000,000 | 250 million | two hundred and fifty million |
1,000,000,000 | 1 billion | one billion (a billion is 1000 times 1 million) |
6,400,000,000 | 6.4 billion | six point four billion |
1,000,000,000,000 | 1 trillion | one trillion (a trillion is 1000 times 1 billion, or 1 million times 1 million) |
In British English, 1,000,000,000 is a thousand million or, rarely, a milliard. Traditionally, British English has followed the ‘long scale’ or European numbering system, although in recent years the ‘short scale’ (American) usage has become increasingly common. For example, the UK Government and BBC websites use the short-scale values exclusively, with 1,000,000,000 being termed a billion.
Often, large numbers are written with half-spaces instead of commas to separate thousands. Thus, a million is 1 000 000. In Commonwealth English, it can also be a point (.), but then, the decimal point becomes a comma.
Ordinal numbers
Here are some ordinal numbers.
0th | zeroth (see below for usage) | ||
1st | first | ||
2nd | second | 20th | twentieth |
3rd | third | 30th | thirtieth |
4th | fourth | 40th | fortieth |
5th | fifth | 50th | fiftieth |
6th | sixth | 60th | sixtieth |
7th | seventh | 70th | seventieth |
8th | eighth (only one “t”) | 80th | eightieth |
9th | ninth (note spelling) | 90th | ninetieth |
10th | tenth | ||
11th | eleventh | ||
12th | twelfth (note spelling) | ||
13th | thirteenth | ||
14th | fourteenth | ||
15th | fifteenth | ||
16th | sixteenth | ||
17th | seventeenth | ||
18th | eighteenth | ||
19th | nineteenth |
Ordinal numbers such as 21st, 33rd, etc, are formed by combining a cardinal ten with an ordinal unit.
21st | twenty-first |
25th | twenty-fifth |
32nd | thirty-second |
58th | fifty-eighth |
64th | sixty-fourth |
79th | seventy-ninth |
83rd | eighty-third |
99th | ninety-ninth |
Higher ordinals are not usually written in words. They are written using digits and letters as described below. Here are some rules that should be borne in mind. The suffixes -th, -st, -nd and -rd are usually written raised above the number itself (as superscript).
- If the ten’s digit of a number is 1, then write “th” after the number. For example: 13th, 19th, 112th, 9311th.
- If the ten’s digit is not equal to 1, then use the following table:
If the unit’s digit is: | 0 | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 |
write this after the number | th | st | nd | rd | th | th | th | th | th | th |
- For example: 2nd, 7th, 20th, 23rd, 52nd, 135th, 301st.
Dates
Years before 2000 are read as follows:
1066 | ten sixty-six |
1492 | fourteen ninety-two |
1500 | fifteen hundred |
1502 | fifteen oh two (note the “oh” for zero) or fifteen hundred and two |
1776 | seventeen seventy-six |
1990 | nineteen ninety |
The year 2000 is read “two thousand”.
Years after 2000 have no set system as of yet for expressing them; however, the second form of zeroth-decade year pronunciation is more common (that is, 2003 to be said as “two thousand and three”), and post-2010 dates are often said as normal (2010 would be “twenty ten”).
Note that years are only exceedingly rarely read as ordinal numbers, as “[…] in the one thousand one hundred and ninety-seventh year of our Lord” (that is, 1197), and this is considered archaic.
Dates sometimes do not use “st”, “nd”, etc, after the day of the month; however, it is always pronounced with this suffix.
- Examples:
- I am writing this example on Jan. 2, 2003 (January second, two thousand and three).
- The Twin Towers were destroyed on Sept. 11, 2001 (September eleventh, two thousand and one).
In British English, written dates with numbers have the date before the month (thus, as in most European date systems, day/month/year, eg 13/01/2000). When the month is spelt out, there are two options:
- the date is before the month and the ordinal suffix is appended (the 1st of October 1848); in writing, the and especially of are sometimes left out from the date, peculiarly so when it stands alone, such as when writing cheques or the like (1st October 1848)
- the date is after the month and, usually, but not always, no ordinal suffix is appended (September 4, 2006); in writing, the is always omitted, but it must be vocalised in British English (September the fourth, two thousand and six).
There is seldom a comma before the year, though it does appear, especially if the month comes first. If month names are abbreviated, they are not normally followed by a full-stop (thus, Aug (not Aug.) for August).
Compare:
- Today is 29th January 2004. (Read: Today is the twenty-ninth of January, two thousand and four.)
- Today is the 29th of January 2004. (the same)
- March 1 was known as the kalends of March in ancient Rome. (Read: March the first was known …)
- We signed the documents on June 10, 1969. (Read: … on June the tenth, nineteen sixty-nine)
- The European Union will fully accept its new members on 01/05/2004. (Read: … on the first of May, two thousand and four)
Fractions and decimals
Here are some common fractions:
1/16 | one-sixteenth |
1/10 or 0.1 | one-tenth |
1/8 | one-eighth |
2/10 or 0.2 | two-tenths |
1/4 | one-quarter or one-fourth |
3/10 or 0.3 | three-tenths |
1/3 | one-third |
3/8 | three-eighths |
4/10 or 0.4 | four-tenths |
1/2 | one half |
6/10 or 0.6 | six-tenths |
5/8 | five-eighths |
2/3 | two-thirds |
7/10 or 0.7 | seven-tenths |
3/4 | three-quarters or three-fourths |
8/10 or 0.8 | eight-tenths |
7/8 | seven-eighths |
9/10 or 0.9 | nine-tenths |
15/16 | fifteen-sixteenths |
Alternatively, and for greater numbers, one may say for 1/2 “one over two”, for 5/8 “five over eight”, and so on.
Numbers with a decimal point are usually read as a whole number, then “point”, then digits.
- For example:
- 0.002 is “zero point zero zero two”
- 3.1416 is “three point one four one six”
- 99.3 is “ninety-nine point three” (notice the usage of “ninety”)
Some English speakers will say nought for the symbol 0. Thus, 0.002 becomes “nought point nought nought two”. Sometimes, oh is also used (oh point oh oh two).
Very often, if the whole number is 0, it is not actually said in speech. Thus, “point nought nought two”, “point zero zero two” or “point oh oh two”.
The decimal point is sometimes in writing placed at the top of the line and sometimes at the centre (0·002), and is sometimes replaced by a decimal comma, especially in international publications.
- Fractions together with an integer are read as follows:
- 1 1/2 is “one and a half”
- 6 1/4 is read as “six and a quarter”
- 7 5/8 is “seven and five eighths”
See also English-language numerals.
Whether to use digits or words
According to your friendly neighborhood copy editor and/or English teacher, the numbers zero through nine should be “written out” – meaning instead of “1” and “2”, one would write “one” and “two”.
Example: “I have two apples.” (Correct) Example: “I have 2 apples.” (Incorrect)
After “nine”, one can head straight back into the 10, 11, 12, etc.
Example: “I have 28 grapes.” (Correct) Example: “I have twenty-eight grapes.” (Incorrect)
Another common usage is to write out any number that can be expressed as one or two words, and use figures otherwise.
Examples: “There are six million dogs.” (Correct) “There are 6,000,000 dogs.” (Incorrect) “That is one hundred and twenty-five oranges.” (Incorrect) “That is 125 oranges.” (Correct)
Numbers at the beginning of a sentence should also be written out.
The above rules are not always used. In literature, larger numbers might be spelled out.
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Specialised Numbers
When dealing with sport, results are read as in the following examples:
- 1:0 – one nil
- 0:0 – nil nil
- 2:2 – two two (or two to two or two all)
- 2:1 – two one (or two to one)
Tennis sometimes uses “love” for zero, from French l’oeuf (the egg), owing to zero’s shape.
When stressing nothingness, other terms are used for 0: zero, zilch, nada, null, zip. This is true especially in combination with one another: “You know nothing – zero, nada, zilch!”