Expressing Numbers in English

Restaurant employee tallying receipts
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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 help students learn the correct grouping in English. Generally speaking, numbers larger than nine should always be expressed by numbers in written English, while numbers under 10 should be written out:

  • I have 15 clients in New York.
  • He ate three cookies.
  • She has 240 contacts on her mailing list.

How to Say Numbers from One to 100

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:"

  • 200 is two hundred NOT two hundreds

How to Say Numbers in the 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:"

How to Say Numbers in the 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

How to Say Numbers in the 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.

How to Say Numbers With 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!)

How to Say Percentages

Say percentages as the number followed by "percent:"

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

How to Talk About Fractions

Say 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 is how to say a number of important numerical expressions in English.

  • 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 numbers: 212-555-1212. Read telephone numbers in individual numbers: two one two five five five one two one two
    • Dates: 12/04/65. Read dates month, day, year in the U.S.
    • 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
    • Score - 2-1. Read scores as "number + to + number": Two to one 

    Talking About Money

    When you see a price such as $60, read the currency first then the number: Sixty dollars.

    If the amount includes cents, express the dollar amount first, followed by the cents:

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

    Native speakers often just say 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

    Ordinal Numbers

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

    1stfirst
    2ndsecond
    3rdthird
    5thfifth
    8theighth
    17thseventeenth
    21sttwenty-first
    46thforty-sixth
    100thone-hundredth
    1000thone thousandth

    Examples:

    • His birthday is May fifth.
    • She is third in line, behind the guy in the cap.
    • I greeted her first, as she had been waiting the longest.