In this lesson we shall take a look at how numbers are used in the English language. Most of the time using numbers is easy, but you should be aware of these other ways of expressing numbers in the English language!

Sets of numbers

We can use words to express certain numbers. Here are the most common ones.

  • oh, nought, nil, zero, love = 0
  • brace = 2
  • hat-trick = 3
  • half a dozen = 6
  • dozen = 12
  • bakers dozen = 13
  • score = 20
  • gross = 144
  • grand, k = 1000
Cockney Rhyming Slang

Cockneys are English people from the East End of London. They have a very strong regional accent! In some English movies you might hear people with this accent using strange words when talking about numbers or amounts of money. Some examples:

  • quid – one pound (English money)
  • fiver – fiver pounds
  • tenner – ten pounds
  • pony – 25
  • ton – 100
  • monkey – 500
Speaking numbers

There are some special ways to say numbers when we speak.

  • double 2 = 22
  • triple 5 = 555
  • quadruple 7 = 7777
Years and Years

years

When we talk about years in English we don’t always read the full number! Here are some examples of how to say the years.

  • 1864 (say eighteen sixty four)
  • 1956 (say nineteen fifty six)
  • 1999 (say nineteen ninety nine)
  • 2000 (say two thousand)
  • 2005 (say two thousand and five) (oh five if we know the context)
  • 2011 (say twenty eleven or two thousand and eleven) (oh eleven if we know the context)
  • 2012 (say twenty twelve or two thousand and twelve(oh twelve if we know the context)

We can shorten 20number (2003, 2010 etc.) to just oh number (03, 010 etc.) if we know we are referencing a certain time.

For example:

  • Pat: When did you last go to London to see Tommy?
  • Peter: Not long ago, I think it was September oh ten*.

(*This would be written as ’10 or 2010)

People say twenty eighteen more frequently than two thousand and eighteen because it’s shorter and easier to say. Two thousand and eighteen is more formal if you are need to use formal language.

Saying BIG Numbers

Users of British English and American English say large numbers in slightly different ways.

British English: When we read a big number, we start with the largest part and move down to the smallest. The number 3,423,961 would be read as three million, four hundred and twenty three thousand, nine hundred and sixty one. We use the word and after the word hundred only if it is one hundred and something.

American English: American English is nearly the same, but they don’t use the word and at all. The number 3,423,961 would be spoken as three million, four hundred twenty three thousand, nine hundred sixty one by Americans.

One last thing to remember is that one billion means one thousand million.