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How to name numbers in English

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Here are examples of how to name numbers in English.

Cardinal numbersEdit

Cardinal numbers refer to the size of a group.

0zero (nought)    
4four14fourteen40forty (no "u")
5five15fifteen (note "f", not "v")50fifty (note "f", not "v")
8eight18eighteen (only one "t")80eighty (only one "t")

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.


In English, the hundreds are perfectly regular, except that the word hundred remains in its singular form regardless of the number preceding it (nevertheless, one may on the other hand say "hundreds of people flew in", or the like)

100one hundred
200two hundred
900nine hundred

So too are the thousands, with the number of thousands followed by the word "thousand"

1,000one thousand
2,000two thousand
10,000ten thousand
11,000eleven thousand
20,000twenty thousand
21,000twenty-one thousand
30,000thirty thousand
85,000eighty-five thousand
100,000one hundred thousand
999,000nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand (British English)
nine hundred ninety-nine thousand (American English)
1,000,000one million

In American usage, multiples of 100 between 1,000 and 10,000, such as 2,500 or 9,400, are often named "twenty-five hundred" or "ninety-four hundred" than the formal "two thousand five hundred" or "nine thousand four hundred". In British usage, this style is common for multiples of 100 between 1,000 and 2,000 (e.g. 1,500 as "fifteen hundred"), but not for higher numbers.

Intermediate numbers are read differently depending on their use. Their typical naming occurs when the numbers are used for counting. Another way is for when they are used 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). In other words, the British dialect can seemingly adopt the American way of counting, but it is specific to the situation (in this example, bus numbers).

Common British vernacularCommon American vernacularCommon British vernacular
"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.
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 cheque (or check), 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.

For numbers above a million, there are two different systems for naming numbers in English:

  • the long scale (decreasingly used in British English) designates a system of numeric names in which a thousand million is called a milliard (but the latter usage is now rare), and billion is used for a million million.
  • the short scale (always used in American English and increasingly in British English) designates a system of numeric names in which a thousand million is called a billion, and the word milliard is not used
Number notation Power
Short scale Long scale
1,000,000106 one million one million
1,000,000,000109 one billion
a thousand million
one milliard
a thousand million
1,000,000,000,0001012 one trillion
a thousand billion
one billion
a million million
1,000,000,000,000,0001015 one quadrillion
a thousand trillion
one billiard
a thousand billion
1,000,000,000,000,000,0001018 one quintillion
a thousand quadrillion
one trillion
a million billion

Although British English has traditionally followed the long-scale numbering system, the short-scale usage has become increasingly common in recent years. For example, the UK Government and BBC websites use the newer short-scale values exclusively.

Here are some approximate composite large numbers in American English:

Quantity Written Pronounced
1,200,0001.2 millionone point two million
3,000,0003 millionthree million
250,000,000250 milliontwo hundred fifty million
6,400,000,0006.4 billionsix point four billion

Often, large numbers are written with (preferably non-breaking) half-spaces or thin spaces separating the thousands (and, sometimes, with normal spaces or apostrophes) instead of commas—to ensure that confusion is not caused in countries where a decimal comma is used. Thus, a million is often written 1 000 000.

In some areas, a point (. or ·) may also be used as a thousands' separator, but then, the decimal separator must be a comma.

Specialised numbersEdit

A few numbers have special names (in addition to their regular names):

  • 0: has several other names, depending on context:
    • naught / nought: mostly British usage
    • oh: used when spelling numbers (like telephone, bank account, bus line)
    • nil: in general sport scores, British usage ("The score is two-nil.")
    • nothing: in general sport scores, American usage ("The score is two to nothing.")
    • null: used technically to refer to an object or idea related to nothingness, such as the null value in computer science
    • love: in tennis (origin disputed, often said to come from French l'œuf, "egg")
    • zilch, nada (from Spanish), zip: used informally when stressing nothingness; this is true especially in combination with one another ("You know nothing—zero, zip, nada, zilch!")
    • nix: also used as a verb
  • 12: a dozen (first power of the duodecimal base), used mostly in commerce
  • 13: a baker's dozen
  • 20: a score (first power of the vigesimal base), nowadays archaic; famously used in the opening of the Gettysburg Address: "Four score and seven years ago..." The Number of the Beast in the King James Bible is rendered "Six hundred threescore and six".
  • 120: a great hundred (twelve tens; as opposed to the small hundred, i.e. 100 or ten tens), also called small gross (ten dozens), both archaic; also sometimes referred to as duodecimal hundred
  • 144: a gross (a dozen dozens, second power of the duodecimal base), used mostly in commerce
  • 1728: a great gross (a dozen gross, third power of the duodecimal base), used mostly in commerce
  • 10,000: a myriad (a hundred hundred), commonly used in the sense of an indefinite very high number
  • 100,000: a lakh (a hundred thousand), loanword used mainly in Indian English
  • 10,000,000: a crore (a hundred lakh), loanword used mainly in Indian English
  • 6.022x10^{23}: Avogadro's number, used chiefly in chemistry or the sciences to represent a mole
  • 10^{100}: googol (1 followed by 100 zeros), used in mathematics; not to be confused with the name of the search engine Google (which is actually a pun on googol)
  • 10^{10^{100}}: googolplex (1 followed by a googol of zeros)
  • 10^{10^{10^{100}}}: googolduplex (1 followed by a googolplex of zeros)

Combinations of numbers in most sports scores are read as in the following examples:

  • 1–0    British English: one nil; American English: one-nothing, or one-zero
  • 0–0    British English: nil-nil, or nil all; American English: zero-zero or nothing-nothing, (occasionally scoreless or no score)
  • 2–2    two-two (or two to two, or two all)

Tennis scores (and related games) are a law unto themselves.

Ordinal numbersEdit

Ordinal numbers refer to a position in a series. Common ordinals include:

0thzeroth or noughth (see below)    
2ndsecond12thtwelfth (note "f", not "v")20thtwentieth
8theighth (only one "t")18theighteenth80theightieth
9thninth (no "e")19thnineteenth90thninetieth

Zeroth only has a meaning when counts start with zero, which happens in a mathematical or computer science context.

Ordinal numbers such as 21st, 33rd, etc., are formed by combining a cardinal ten with an ordinal unit.


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 occasionally written superscript above the number itself.
  • If the tens digit of a number is 1, then write "th" after the number. For example: 13th, 19th, 112th, 9,311th.
  • If the tens digit is not equal to 1, then use the following table:
If the unit's digit is: 0123456789
write this after the number thstndrdthththththth
  • For example: 2nd, 7th, 20th, 23rd, 52nd, 135th, 301st.

These ordinal abbreviations are actually hybrid contractions of a numeral and a word. 1st is "1" + "st" from "first". Similarly, we use "nd" for "second" and "rd" for "third". In the legal field and in some older publications, the ordinal abbreviation for "second" and "third" is simply, "d"

  • For example: 42d, 33d, 23d.

Any ordinal name that doesn't end in "first", "second", or "third", ends in "th".


There are a number of ways to read years. The following table offers a list of valid pronunciations and alternate pronunciations for any given year of the Gregorian calendar. The favorable pronunciation is determined by number of syllables.

Year Most common pronunciation method Alternative methods
1 BC (The year) One BC 1 Before Christ (BC)
1 (The year) One 1 of the Common/Christian Era/Anno Domini (CE/AD)
235 Two thirty-five Two-three-five
Two hundred (and) thirty-five
999 Nine ninety-nine Nine-nine-nine
Nine hundred (and) ninety-nine
1000 One thousand Ten hundred
1050 Ten fifty One thousand (and) fifty
1225 Twelve twenty-five One-two-two-five
One thousand, two hundred (and) twenty-five
1900 Nineteen hundred One thousand, nine hundred
1901 Nineteen oh-one Nineteen hundred (and) one
One thousand, nine hundred (and) one
Nineteen aught one
1919 Nineteen nineteen Nineteen hundred (and) nineteen
One thousand, nine hundred (and) nineteen
1999 Nineteen ninety-nine Nineteen hundred (and) ninety-nine
One thousand, nine hundred (and) ninety-nine
2000 Two thousand Twenty hundred
2001 Two thousand (and) one Twenty oh-one
Twenty hundred (and) one
2009 Two thousand (and) nine Twenty oh-nine
Twenty hundred (and) nine
2010 Twenty-ten Two thousand (and) ten
Twenty hundred (and) ten
2013 Twenty-thirteen Two thousand (and) thirteen
Twenty hundred (and) thirteen
2020 Twenty-twenty Two thousand (and) twenty
Twenty hundred (and) twenty
2025 Twenty twenty-five Two thousand (and) twenty five
Twenty hundred (and) twenty five
2099 Twenty ninety-nine Two thousand (and) ninety-nine
Twenty hundred (and) ninety-nine
2100 Twenty-one hundred Two thousand, one hundred
2101 Twenty-one-oh-one Two thousand, one hundred (and) one
Twenty one hundred (and) one

Years are rarely read explicitly as ordinal numbers, as "[...] in the one thousand one hundred and ninety-seventh year of our Lord" (that is, 1197), even though ordinal numbers are implicit in traditional western calendrical systems. To read dates in ordinal fashion is considered archaic. However, years are numbered with cardinal numbers in astronomical usage, and in the Hindu and Mayan calendrical systems (see Year zero). Some Quaker communities refer to days of the week in ordinal fashion; in this usage "First Day" is Sunday, "Second Day" is Monday, etc.

  • In British, European and International (covering most of the world) English, the day usually comes before the month and the ordinal suffix is always vocalised and often appended: "the 1st of October 1984". However, other usages are not exceptional; "October the First is too Late" is the name of a novel by the English astronomer Fred Hoyle. In writing, the and especially of, while vocalised, are generally left out from the written date, particularly when the date stands alone, such as when writing cheques: 1st October 1984. The full form was common in older English, as can be seen in old English literature. The three main written forms are therefore:
    • The 25th of January 2005 (old English extended form rarely used now in written form, but still fully used for all three forms in spoken English)
    • 25th January 2005 (omitting "the" and "of")
    • 25 January 2005 (omitting the ordinal suffix)
  • In North American English, the day usually comes after the month and the ordinal suffix is rarely written, but optionally vocalized: "September 4, 1990" (read "September four(th), nineteen ninety"). The British form is still used for certain dates such as the Fourth of July.


  • Today is (the) 14th (of) March 2004. (British and international form, read "Today is the fourteenth of March, two thousand and four").
  • We signed the documents on June 10, 1969. (North American form, read "...on June ten(th), nineteen sixty-nine").

The comma before the year is optional. It is usually used in American English (September 4, 2004) but now seldom used in British and International English (4 September 2004). In abbreviations of month names, such as "Aug" for August, the period or full stop is often left out.

For an explanation of British, American and International usage for dates written in numbers, such as 14/03/2004 or 3/14/2004 or 2004-03-14, see calendar date.

Fractions and decimalsEdit

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 (British) or

one-fourth (American)

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 (British) or

three-fourths (American)

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. (This form is not common in British English.)

Numbers with a decimal point may be read as a cardinal number, then "and", then another cardinal number followed by an indication of the significance of the second cardinal number (not common in British English); or as a cardinal number, followed by "point", and then by the digits of the fractional part. The indication of significance takes the form of the denominator of the fraction indicating division by the smallest power of ten larger than the second cardinal. This is modified when the first cardinal is zero, in which case neither the zero nor the "and" is pronounced, but the zero is optional in the "point" form of the fraction.

  • For example:
    • 0.002 is "two thousandths" (mainly U.S.); or "point zero zero two", "point oh oh two", "nought point zero zero two", etc.
    • 3.1416 is "three and one thousand four hundred sixteen ten-thousandths" (mainly U.S.); or "three point one four one six"
    • 99.3 is "ninety-nine and three tenths" (mainly U.S.); or "ninety-nine point three".

In English the decimal point was originally printed in the center of the line (0·002), but with the advent of the typewriter it was placed at the bottom of the line, so that a single key could be used as a full stop/period and as a decimal point. In many non-English languages a full-stop/period at the bottom of the line is used as a thousands separator with a comma being used as the decimal point.

  • Fractions together with an integer are read as follows:
    • 1 1/2 is "one and a half"
    • 6 1/4 is "six and a quarter"
    • 7 5/8 is "seven and five eighths"

A space is required between the whole number and the fraction; however, if a special fraction character is used like "½", then the space can be done without, e.g.

    • 9 1/2

See also English-language numerals.

Whether to use digits or wordsEdit

According to most copy editors and English teachers, the numbers zero through nine inclusive should be "written out" – meaning instead of "1" and "2", one would write "one" and "two".

Example: "I have two apples." (Preferred)
Example: "I have 2 apples."

After "nine", one can head straight back into the 10, 11, 12, etc., although some write out the numbers until "twelve".

Example: "I have 28 grapes." (Preferred)
Example: "I have twenty-eight grapes."

Another common usage is to write out any number that can be expressed as one or two words, and use figures otherwise.

"There are six million dogs." (Preferred)
"There are 6,000,000 dogs."
"That is one hundred twenty-five oranges."
"That is 125 oranges." (Preferred)

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. On the other hand, digits might be more commonly used in technical or financial articles, where many figures are discussed. In particular, the two different forms should not be used for figures that serve the same purpose; for example, it is inelegant to write, "Between day twelve and day 15 of the study, the population doubled."

Empty numbersEdit

Colloquial English has a small vocabulary of empty numbers that can be employed when there is uncertainty as to the precise number to use, but it is desirable to define a general range: specifically, the terms "umpteen", "umpty", and "zillion". These are derived etymologically from the range affixes:

  • "-teen" (designating the range as being between 10 and 20)
  • "-ty" (designating the range as being in one of the decades between 20 and 100)
  • "-illion" (designating the range as being above 1,000,000; or, more generally, as being extremely large).

The prefix "ump-" is added to the first two suffixes to produce the empty numbers "umpteen" and "umpty": it is of uncertain origin. There is a noticeable absence of an empty number in the hundreds range.

Usage of empty numbers:

  • The word "umpteen" may be used as an adjective, as in "I had to go to umpteen stores to find shoes that fitted". It can also be used to modify a larger number, usually "million", as in "Umpteen million people watched the show; but they still cancelled it."
  • "Umpty" is not in common usage. It can appear in the form "umpty-one" (parallelling the usage in such numbers as "twenty-one"), as in "There are umpty-one ways to do it wrong".
  • The word "zillion" may be used as an adjective, modifying a noun. The noun phrase normally contains the indefinite article a, as in "There must be a zillion sites on the World Wide Web".
  • The plural "zillions" designates a number indefinitely larger than "millions" or "billions". In this case, the construction is parallel to the one for "millions" or "billions", with the number used as a plural count noun, followed by a prepositional phrase with "of", as in "Out in the countryside, the night sky is filled with zillions of stars."
  • Empty numbers are sometimes made up, with obvious meaning: "squillions" is obviously an empty, but very large, number; a "squintillionth" would be a very small number.
  • Empty numbers are not modified by actual numbers: in other words, it would not be acceptable to say something like "four zillion" except in jest.
  • Empty numbers are colloquial, and primarily used in oral speech or informal contexts. They are inappropriate in formal or scholarly usage.

See also Placeholder name.

Usage notesEdit

While there are a number of "rules" about ways of expressing numbers, the essential requirement must always be to avoid ambiguity. Different authorities do not always agree; for example the following sentence was found in a perfectly respectable document. "It has sold 10,000,000 copies. It was number 21 on a recent list of the 100 most important non-fiction books of the 20th century." This sentence is perfectly clear, and it is unlikely that any reader would change his attitude toward the author because of these "errors".

The usage of either a comma or a point in a number provides a degree of ambiguity too. The number 1,000 would be read as being one thousand in the US and the UK, and as Exactly One in most of Europe and elsewhere. Modern usage in ISO 31-0 shows either the point or the dot to be used for the "Exactly One" form, and for spaces to be used in very large or very small numbers, like in 1 000 000 or in 0.000 000 005 and so on.

With the rise of computers, use of the name of the letter "O" to signify both the letter "O" and numeric zero has become ambiguous. If numbers are typed into the computer as spoken, problems may arise if the numbers are used for anything other than simple display. If a house number is shown on screen as "12O" instead of "120", no harm is done. But if this error is made in a telephone number to be dialed, or in calculations, problems will arise. The simplest solution is always to say "zero" or "nought".

Numeric dates, as normally abbreviated, are ambiguous: the forms "mm/dd/yy", "dd/mm/yy" (where "yy" may be a 2-digit or 4-digit year), are used in different places; in the US, the former is used, and is reflected in the spoken convention for dates there, for example "October Fourth, Two Thousand Five", whereas in Britain, the latter naming convention is used, and would be spoken as "(The) Tenth of April, Two Thousand and Five". The international standard, with the form YYYY-MM-DD avoids ambiguity and 2005-07-09 always means 2005 July the 9th.

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit

  • English Numbers - explanations, exercises and number generator (cardinal and ordinal numbers)
es:Nombres de los números en español
pt:Nomes dos números
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