Talking about Numbers (part 1)

numbers in boxes viewed from an oblique angle

Expressing numbers in words can be tricky in any language — and English is no different! The subject of numbers is very large (pun!)*, so this week and next week we will cover some of the basics most relevant to business.

Years

For years before 2000, the pattern is to express the first two digits as a single number (e.g. nineteen, twelve) and the second two digits as a single or compound number (e.g. twelve, sixty-two).

1066: ten sixty-six

1984: nineteen eighty-four

2020: two thousand and twenty OR twenty twenty

Large numbers

With large numbers, there is a key difference between UK English and US English. UK English uses and before the last digit (or compound numeral) expressed in the grouping. US English does not use and.

6,278

six thousand, two hundred and seventy-eight (UK)

six thousand, two hundred seventy-eight (US)

389,165

three hundred and eighty-nine thousand, one hundred and sixty-five (UK)

three hundred eighty-nine thousand, one hundred sixty-five (US)

8,200,920

eight million two hundred thousand, nine hundred and twenty (UK)

eight million two hundred thousand, nine hundred twenty (US)

1m (UK) / 1M (US): one / a million (1,000,000)

3bn (UK) / 3B (US): three billion (3,000,000,000)

$8.3bn (UK) / $8.3B (US): eight point three billion dollars

€937m (UK) / €937M (US)

nine hundred and thirty-seven million euros (UK)

nine hundred thirty-seven million euros (US)

When no exact amount is specified, we use the plural:

It cost thousands of pounds.

They spent millions of dollars to repair it.

She has a net worth of billions.

Next week we will explain how to express fractions, decimals and monetary amounts.

* a pun is a play on words, a joke using language. Here the joke is that the word large is being used in two senses: 1) the topic of numbers is large, and 2) numbers themselves can be large.

You may laugh now!

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