In this lesson, we will take a look at how to use numbers in English. Most of the time, using numbers is easy, but you should be aware of 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
- Baker’s 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 – five pounds
- Tenner – ten pounds
- Pony – 25
- Ton – 100
- Monkey – 500
There are some special ways to say numbers when we speak:
- Double 2 = 22
- Triple 5 = 555
- Quadruple 7 = 7777
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)
- 2023 (say twenty-twenty-three)
We can shorten 20-number (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 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.
- Back To Square One (idiom) – Start again.
- On Cloud Nine (idiom) – Very happy.
- Pinch Punch, It’s The First Of The Month (British culture)
- Zillion (slang) – An unknown, vague or fictitious large number.
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