numbers in english

How to Say and Use Numbers Correctly in English

Hey, guys! Want to know how to say and use numbers correctly in English? Numbers such as one, five, eleven, two hundred are cardinal numbers. We most commonly use cardinal numbers as determiners (before nouns). When we use them in this way, we can use other determiners such as articles (a/anthe) and possessives (myyour) in front of them. We can use cardinal numbers + of before determiners (one of my friends):

She loves animals and has two dogs, three cats and one rabbit.

My two best friends are Amy and Louise.

Three of his colleagues were sacked yesterday. (sacked = lost their jobs)

We also use cardinal numbers as nouns:

The children arrived in twos and threes.

Large numbers

We normally say a hundred, a thousand, a million. We only say one hundred, one thousand and one million when we want to emphasise the number:

What would you do if you won a million euros? (preferred to one million euros)

The city is about a hundred kilometres from the capital.

Numbers such as 100, 200, 1,000, etc. do not take a plural –s when we use them as determiners:

There were about two hundred people at the meeting.

Not: There were about two hundreds people …

However, we use the plural forms hundredsthousandsmillions + of + noun to refer to large, non-specific numbers:

It’s happened hundreds of times.

Millions of people live in poverty.

numbers in english

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 

Hope now you can express with confidence when taking about numbers! Go on learning about the Use of English and about passing your First Certificate Exam with flying colors!

Likewise, check my FB page or my TeachersPayTeachers store, where you will find all sorts of pieces of advice and resources.



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