Numbers In The English Language
The words for numbers are some of the oldest and most conservative words in most languages. The Numbers In The English Language can be traced back to the original Indo-European language, but during the early Middle English period, English speakers began to borrow related number words from Greek, Latin and French.
The English Language has both cardinal numbers and ordinal numbers. Cardinal numbers describe quantity (one, two, three, etc.), and ordinal numbers describe position or rank in sequential order (first, second, third, etc.). More specifically, we use ordinal numbers when talking about order or placement in a sequence or series.
Cardinal Numbers Table
Be careful with billions and trillions in English!
In American English, and now in British English, a billion has nine zeros (so, one billion = one thousand million).
Before, in British English one billion had twelve zeros (one million million). In American English, and now in British English, a trillion has twelve zeros (so, one trillion = one million million). Before, in ‘old’ British English one trillion had eighteen zeros (one million million million).
- million 1,000,000
- billion 1,000,000,000
- trillion 1,000,000,000,000
We use the suffix -th to form most ordinal numbers, such as fourth, fifth, or tenth. The ordinal numbers for one (first), two (second), and three (third) are exceptions.
- 1st first 11th eleventh
- 2nd second 12th twelfth
- 3rd third 13th thirteenth
- 4th fourth 14th fourteenth
- 5th fifth 15th fifteenth
- 6th sixth 16th sixteenth
- 7th seventh 17th seventeenth
- 8th eighth 18th eighteenth
- 9th ninth 19th nineteenth
- 10th tenth 20th twentieth
- 31st thirty-first
- 100th one hundredth
- 511th five hundred and eleventh
Look up in the dictionary.
Days and Dates
Seasons of the Year
Seasons does not begin with a capital letters.
- autumn / fall
Fall is used in United States, autumn in the rest of the world.
Months of the Year
The months of the year in English begin with CAPITAL letters.
Days of the Week
The days of the week in English begin with CAPITAL letters.
Saturday and Sunday are known as the weekend.
In the English Language the first letter of the day or month is always in capital letters.
- January correct – january incorrect
- Thursday correct – thursday incorrect
Though the first letter of the seasons does not begin with a capital letters.
- Spring incorrect – spring correct
Time expressions for the past
The most common time expressions used for the past simple are: yesterday, a week (month, year) ago, last (month, year, weekend, Monday) night, the day before yesterday, two days (months, years) ago. The time expression appears either at the beginning or at the end of the sentence – never in the middle of the sentence.
Time expressions for the future
When we know about the future, we normally use the present tense.
Tomorrow; in (future year, month, week); on (future day); next (month, week, year, name of day); # days, months, weeks, years from now; this month, week, afternoon, year; someday
Metrics of Time
- 33 BC
- 1500 BCE = (15’00) Fifteen hundred
- 2001 BCE = two thousand and one
- 1999 BCE = (19’99) nineteen ninety nine
- 2021 BCE = (20’21) twenty twenty one
- She’s in her 30s
- He’s in his teens
Teen years 13-19
Addition: sum, plus, and, with, add
Subtraction: minus, difference, lose, remove, take away, subtract
Multiplication: times, product, by, multiply, groups
Division: divide, quotient, of, divide
- comma (,)
- dot (.)
- plus (+)
- minus (-)
- times (x)
- equals (=)
- percentage (%)
Asking For And Telling The Time
1) Say the hour first and then the minutes. (Hour + Minutes)
- 6:25 – It’s six twenty-five
- 8:05 – It’s eight O-five (the O is said like the letter O)
- 9:11 – It’s nine eleven
- 2:34 – It’s two thirty-four
2) Say the minutes first and then the hour. (Minutes + PAST / TO + Hour)
For minutes 1-30 we use PAST after the minutes.
For minutes 31-59 we use TO after the minutes.
- 2:35 – It’s twenty-five to three
- 11:20 – It’s twenty past eleven
- 4:18 – It’s eighteen past four
- 8:51 – It’s nine to nine
- 2:59 – It’s one to three
When it is 15 minutes past the hour we normally say: (a) quarter past
- 7:15 – It’s (a) quarter past seven
When it is 15 minutes before the hour we normally say: a quarter to
- 12:45 – It’s (a) quarter to one
When it is 30 minutes past the hour we normally say: half past
- 3:30 – It’s half past three (but we can also say three-thirty)
We use o’clock when there are NO minutes.
- 10:00 – It’s ten o’clock
- 5:00 – It’s five o’clock
- 1:00 – It’s one o’clock
Sometimes it is written as 9 o’clock (the number + o’clock)
For 12:00 there are four expressions in English.
- twelve o’clock
- midday = noon
- Once a week
- Twice a week
- Three times a week
Spelling numbers rules
There are few basic rules on how to spell numbers in the English Language. However, spelling out numbers vs. using figures (also called numerals) is largely a matter of writers’ preference. Again, consistency is the key.
1. Spell out all numbers beginning a sentence.
Twenty-three hundred sixty-one victims were hospitalized.
Twenty twenty was quite a year.
- Note: The Associated Press Stylebook makes an exception for years.
- Example: 2020 was quite a year.
- Note: The Associated Press Stylebook makes an exception for years.
2. Hyphenate all written-out fractions and compound numbers from twenty-one through ninety-nine.
Forty-three people were injured in the train wreck.
Twenty-seven of them were hospitalized.
We recovered about two-thirds of the stolen cash.
One-half is slightly less than five-eighths.
- Note: However, do not hyphenate terms like a third or a half.
3. With figures of four or more digits, use commas.
Count three spaces to the left to place the first comma. Continue placing commas after every three digits. Important: Do not include decimal points when doing the counting.
- Note: Some choose not to use commas with four-digit numbers, but this practice is not recommended.
4. It is not necessary to use a decimal point or a dollar sign when writing out sums of less than a dollar.
- Not Advised: He had only $0.60.
He had only sixty cents.
He had only 60 cents.
- Note: Do not add the word “dollars” to figures preceded by a dollar sign.
- Incorrect: I have $1,250 dollars in my checking account.
Correct: I have $1,250 in my checking account.
5. For clarity, use noon and midnight rather than 12:00 PM and 12:00 AM.
- NOTE: AM and PM are also written A.M. and P.M., a.m. and p.m., and am and pm. Some put a space between the time and AM or PM.
- Others write times using no space before AM or PM.
- For the top of the hour, some write 9:00 PM, whereas others drop the :00 and write 9 PM (or 9 p.m., 9pm, etc.).
- Note. Using numerals for the time of day has become widely accepted.
The flight leaves at 6:22 a.m.
Please arrive by 12:30 sharp.
- However, some writers prefer to spell out the time, particularly when using o’clock.
She takes the four thirty-five train.
The baby wakes up at five o’clock in the morning.
6. Mixed fractions are often expressed in figures unless they begin a sentence.
We expect a 5 1/2 percent wage increase.
Five and one-half percent was the expected wage increase.
- Note: The simplest way to express large numbers is usually best.
- Example: twenty-three hundred (simpler than two thousand three hundred)
- Large round numbers are often spelled out, but be consistent within a sentence.
- Consistent: You can earn from one million to five million dollars.
Inconsistent: You can earn from one million dollars to 5 million dollars.
Inconsistent: You can earn from $1 million to five million dollars.
7. Write decimals using figures. As a courtesy to readers, many writers put a zero in front of the decimal point.
- Example: A meter is about 1.1 times longer than a yard.
- As a courtesy to readers, many writers put a zero in front of the decimal point with numbers less than one.
The plant grew 0.79 inches last year.
The plant grew only 0.07 inches this year.
- (Note: For clarity, when needing the symbols for inches or feet, we recommend using the double-prime [″] or the prime [′], respectively, rather than double or single quotation marks.)
8. When writing out a number of three or more digits, the word and is not necessary.
However, use the word and to express any decimal points that may accompany these numbers.
five thousand two hundred eighty feet
one thousand one hundred fifty-four dollars
one thousand one hundred fifty-four dollars and sixty-one cents
- Simpler:eleven hundred fifty-four dollars and sixty-one cents
- Note: When writing out numbers above 999, do not use commas.
- Incorrect: one thousand, one hundred fifty-four dollars, and sixty-one cents
Correct: one thousand one hundred fifty-four dollars and sixty-one cents
9. When it’s important to ensure a number is not misinterpreted, some writers will indicate the number in both numerals and written out. The number in parentheses comes second.
- Incorrect: Add (73) seventy-three grams of sodium chloride to the beaker.
- Incorrect: Add (seventy-three) 73 grams of sodium chloride to the beaker.
- Correct: Add 73 (seventy-three) grams of sodium chloride to the beaker.
- Correct: Add seventy-three (73) grams of sodium chloride to the beaker.
10. The following examples are typical when using figures to express dates.
the 30th of June, 1934
June 30, 1934 (no -th necessary)
- Note: When spelling out decades, do not capitalize them.
- Example:During the eighties and nineties, the U.S. economy grew.
- Note: When expressing decades using figures, it is simpler to put an apostrophe before the incomplete numeral and no apostrophe between the number and the s.
- Preferred: During the ’80s and ’90s, the U.S. economy grew.
Awkward: During the 80s and 90s, the U.S. economy grew.
- Though not as common, some writers place an apostrophe after the number:
- Example: During the 80’s and 90’s, the U.S. economy grew.
Awkward: During the ’80’s and ’90’s, the U.S. economy grew.
11. You may also express decades in complete numerals. Again, it is cleaner to avoid an apostrophe between the year and the s.
- Example:During the 1980s and 1990s, the U.S. economy grew.
- Note: Single-digit numbers are usually spelled out, but when they aren’t, you are just as likely to see 2s and 3s as 2’s and 3’s. With double digits and above, many (but not everyone) regard the apostrophe as superfluous: I scored in the high 90s.
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