Expressing Numbers in English

Restaurant employee tallying receipts
Geri Lavrov/ Photographer's Choice RF/ Getty Images

Expressing numbers in English can be confusing to both students and those listening. Make sure you understand how to express numbers in spoken English by following these rules.

Below you will find numbers written out in order to helps students learn the correct grouping in English. Generally speaking, numbers larger than twenty should always be expressed by numbers in written English:

I have fifteen clients in New York.
She has 240 contacts on her mailing list.

Tens

Say individual numbers between one and twenty. After that, use the tens (twenty, thirty, etc.) followed by the numbers one through nine:

7 - seven
19 - nineteen
32 - thirty-two
89 - eighty-nine

When expressing large numbers (more than one hundred) read in groups of hundreds. The order is as follows: billion, million, thousand, hundred. Notice that hundred, thousand, etc. is NOT followed by an "s:"

Two hundred NOT two hundreds

Hundreds

Say numbers in the hundreds by beginning with numerals one through nine followed by "hundred". Finish by saying the last two digits:

350 – three hundred fifty
425 – four hundred twenty-five
873 - eight hundred seventy-three
112 - one hundred twelve

NOTE: British English takes "and" following "hundred." American English omits "and:"

Thousands

The next group is the thousands. Say a number up to 999 followed by "thousand." Finish by reading the hundreds when applicable:

15,560 – fifteen thousand five hundred sixty
786,450 – seven hundred six thousand four hundred fifty
342,713 - three hundred forty-two thousand seven hundred thirteen
569,045 - five hundred sixty-nine thousand forty-five

Millions

For millions, say a number up to 999 followed by "million." Finish by saying first the thousands and then the hundreds when applicable:

2,450,000 – two million four hundred fifty thousand
27,805,234 - twenty seven million eight hundred five thousands two hundred thirty-four
934,700,000 – nine hundred thirty-four million seven hundred thousand
589,432,420 - five hundred eighty nine million four hundred thirty-two thousand four hundred twenty

For even larger numbers, first use billions and then trillions in a similar manner to millions:

23,870,550,000 - twenty-three billion eight hundred seventy million five hundred fifty thousand
12,600,450,345,000 - twelve trillion six hundred billion four hundred fifty million three hundred forty-five thousand

Large numbers are often rounded to the next biggest or next smallest number to make things easier. For example, 345,987,650 is rounded to 350,000,000.

Decimals

Speak decimals as the number followed by "point." Next, say each number beyond the point individually:

2.36 - two point three six
14.82 - fourteen point eight two
9.7841 -nine point seven eight four one
3.14159    - three point one four one five nine (that's Pi!)

Percentages

Speak percentages as the number followed by "percent:"

37% - thirty-seven percent
12% - twelve percent
87% - eighty-seven percent
3% - three percent

Fractions

Speak the top number as a cardinal number, followed by the ordinal number + "s:"

3/8 - three-eighths
5/16 - five-sixteenths
7/8 - seven-eighths
1/32 - one thirty-second

Exceptions to this rule are:

1/4, 3/4 - one-quarter, three quarters
1/3, 2/3 - one third, two-thirds
1/2 - one-half

Read numbers together with fractions by first stating the number followed by "and" and then the fraction:

4 7/8 - four and seven-eighths
23 1/2 - twenty-three and one-half

Important Numerical Expressions

Here are the descriptive names of a number of important numerical expressions:

Speed - 100 mph (miles per hour)

Read speed as numbers: One hundred miles per hour

Weight - 42 lb. (pounds)

Read weight as numbers: forty-two pounds

Telephone number - 0171 895 7056 

Read telephone numbers in individual numbers: zero one seven one eight nine five seven zero five six

Dates - 12/04/65 

read dates month, day, year

Temperature - 72° F (Fahrenheit)

Read temperature as "degrees +number": seventy-two degrees fahrenheit

Height - 6'2''

Read height in feet and then inches: six feet two inches

Price - $60 

Read the currency first then the number: Sixty dollars

Express dollars by stating the dollar amount followed by cents:

$43.35 - forty-three dollars thirty-five cents
$120.50 - one hundred twenty dollars fifty cents

Native speakers often just say first the dollar number and then the cents number and drop "dollars" and "cents"

35.80 - thirty-five eighty
175.50 - one hundred seventy-five fifty

Score - 2-1

Read scores as "number + to + number": Two to one 

Ordinal Numbers

Ordinal numbers are used when speaking about the day of the month, or the position in a group. Most numbers end in 'th', except "first", "second", and "third" of every ten numbers:

2nd - second
3rd - third
5th - fifth
17th - seventeenth
8th - eighth
21 - twenty-first
46 - forty-sixth