English numerals

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English number words include numerals and various words derived from them, as well as a large number of words borrowed from other languages.

Cardinal numbers[edit]

Cardinal numbers refer to the size of a group. In English, these words are numerals.

0zero (nought)10ten  
1one11eleven  
2two12twelve (a dozen)20twenty (a score)
3three13thirteen30thirty
4four14fourteen40forty (no "u")
5five15fifteen (note "f", not "v")50fifty (note "f", not "v")
6six16sixteen60sixty
7seven17seventeen70seventy
8eight18eighteen (only one "t")80eighty (only one "t")
9nine19nineteen90ninety (note the "e")

If a number is in the range 21 to 99, and the second digit is not zero, one typically writes the number as two words separated by a hyphen.

21twenty-one
25twenty-five
32thirty-two
58fifty-eight
64sixty-four
79seventy-nine
83eighty-three
99ninety-nine

In English, the hundreds are perfectly regular, except that the word hundred remains in its singular form regardless of the number preceding it.

100one hundred
200two hundred
900nine hundred

So too are the thousands, with the number of thousands followed by the word "thousand"

1,000one thousand
2,000two thousand
10,000ten thousand or (rarely used) a myriad
11,000eleven thousand
20,000twenty thousand
21,000twenty-one thousand
30,000thirty thousand
85,000eighty-five thousand
100,000one hundred thousand or one lakh (Indian English)
999,000nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand (inclusively British English, Irish English, Australian English, and New Zealand English)
nine hundred ninety-nine thousand (American English)
1,000,000one million
10,000,000ten million or one crore (Indian English)

In American usage, four-digit numbers with non-zero hundreds are often named using multiples of "hundred" and combined with tens and ones: "One thousand one", "Eleven hundred three", "Twelve hundred twenty-five", "Four thousand forty-two", or "Ninety-nine hundred ninety-nine." In British usage, this style is common for multiples of 100 between 1,000 and 2,000 (e.g. 1,500 as "fifteen hundred") but not for higher numbers.

Americans may pronounce four-digit numbers with non-zero tens and ones as pairs of two-digit numbers without saying "hundred" and inserting "oh" for zero tens: "twenty-six fifty-nine" or "forty-one oh five". This usage probably evolved from the distinctive usage for years; "nineteen-eighty-one". It is avoided for numbers less than 2500 if the context may mean confusion with time of day: "ten ten" or "twelve oh four".

Intermediate numbers are read differently depending on their use. Their typical naming occurs when the numbers are used for counting. Another way is for when they are used as labels. The second column method is used much more often in American English than British English. The third column is used in British English, but rarely in American English (although the use of the second and third columns is not necessarily directly interchangeable between the two regional variants). In other words, British English and American English can seemingly agree, but it depends on a specific situation (in this example, bus numbers).

Common British vernacularCommon American vernacularCommon British vernacular
"How many marbles do you have?""What is your house number?""Which bus goes to the high street?"
101"A hundred and one.""One-oh-one."
Here, "oh" is used for the digit zero.
"One-oh-one."
109"A hundred and nine.""One-oh-nine.""One-oh-nine."
110"A hundred and ten.""One-ten.""One-one-oh."
117"A hundred and seventeen.""One-seventeen.""One-one-seven."
120"A hundred and twenty.""One-twenty.""One-two-oh", "One-two-zero."
152"A hundred and fifty-two.""One-fifty-two.""One-five-two."
208"Two hundred and eight.""Two-oh-eight.""Two-oh-eight."
334"Three hundred and thirty-four.""Three-thirty-four.""Three-three-four."

Note: When writing a cheque (or check), the number 100 is always written "one hundred". It is never "a hundred".

Note that in American English, many students are taught not to use the word and anywhere in the whole part of a number, so it is not used before the tens and ones. It is instead used as a verbal delimiter when dealing with compound numbers. Thus, instead of "three hundred and seventy-three", one would say "three hundred seventy-three". For details, see American and British English differences.

For numbers above a million, there are two different systems for naming numbers in English (for the use of prefixes such as kilo- for a thousand, mega- for a million, milli- for a thousandth, etc. see SI units):

Number notationPower
notation
Short scaleLong scaleIndian
(or South Asian) English
1,000,000106one millionone millionten lakh
1,000,000,000109one billion
a thousand million
one milliard
a thousand million
one hundred crore
(one arab)
1,000,000,000,0001012one trillion
a thousand billion
one billion
a million million
one lakh crore
(ten kharab)
1,000,000,000,000,0001015one quadrillion
a thousand trillion
one billiard
a thousand billion
ten crore crore
(one padm)
1,000,000,000,000,000,0001018one quintillion
a thousand quadrillion
one trillion
a million billion
ten thousand crore crore
(ten shankh)
1,000,000,000,000,000,000,0001021one sextillion
a thousand quintillion
one trilliard
a thousand trillion
one crore crore crore

The numbers past a trillion, in ascending powers of ten, are as follows: quadrillion, quintillion, sextillion, septillion, octillion, nonillion, decillion, undecillion, duodecillion, tredecillion, quattuordecillion, and quindecillion (that's 10 to the 48th, or a one followed by 48 zeros). The highest number listed on Robert Munafo's table,[1] is a milli-millillion. That's 10 to the 3000003rd.

The googolplex has often been nominated as the largest named number in the world. If a googol is ten to the one hundredth, then a googolplex is one followed by a googol of zeroes.[2]

Although British English has traditionally followed the long-scale numbering system, the short-scale usage has become increasingly common in recent years. For example, the UK Government and BBC websites use the newer short-scale values exclusively.

The terms arab, kharab, padm and shankh are more commonly found in old sections of Indian Mathematics.

Here are some approximate composite large numbers in American English:

QuantityWrittenPronounced
1,200,0001.2 millionone point two million
3,000,0003 millionthree million
250,000,000250 milliontwo hundred fifty million
6,400,000,0006.4 billionsix point four billion
23,380,000,00023.38 billiontwenty-three point three eight billion

Often, large numbers are written with (preferably non-breaking) half-spaces or thin spaces separating the thousands (and, sometimes, with normal spaces or apostrophes) instead of commas—to ensure that confusion is not caused in countries where a decimal comma is used. Thus, a million is often written 1 000 000.

In some areas, a point (. or ·) may also be used as a thousands' separator, but then, the decimal separator must be a comma.

Specialized numbers[edit]

A few numbers have special names (in addition to their regular names):

Combinations of numbers in most sports scores are read as in the following examples:

Naming conventions of Tennis scores (and related sports) are different from other sports.

Multiplicative adverbs[edit]

A few numbers have specialised multiplicative numbers expresses how many times some event happens (adverbs):

one timeonce
two timestwice
three timesthrice

Compare these specialist multiplicative numbers to express how many times some thing exists (adjectives):

X 1solitarysingularone-off
X 2doubletwofoldduplicate
X 3triplethreefoldtriplicate
X 4quadruplefourfold
X 5quintuplefivefold
X 6sextuplesixfold
X 7septuplesevenfold
X100.....hundredfold

Other examples are given in the Specialist Numbers.

Negative numbers[edit]

The name of a negative number is the name of the corresponding positive number preceded by "minus" or (American English) "negative". Thus −5.2 is "minus five point two" or "negative five point two". For temperatures, Americans colloquially say "below" — short for "below zero" — so a temperature of −5° is "five below" (in contrast, for example, to "two above" for 2°, occasionally used for emphasis when referring to several temperatures or ranges both positive and negative).

Ordinal numbers[edit]

Ordinal numbers refer to a position in a series. Common ordinals include:

0thzeroth or noughth (see below)10thtenth  
1stfirst11theleventh  
2ndsecond12thtwelfth (note "f", not "v")20thtwentieth
3rdthird13ththirteenth30ththirtieth
4thfourth14thfourteenth40thfortieth
5thfifth15thfifteenth50thfiftieth
6thsixth16thsixteenth60thsixtieth
7thseventh17thseventeenth70thseventieth
8theighth (only one "t")18theighteenth80theightieth
9thninth (no "e")19thnineteenth90thninetieth

Zeroth only has a meaning when counting starts with zero, which happens in a mathematical or computer science context.

Ordinal numbers such as 21st, 33rd, etc., are formed by combining a cardinal ten with an ordinal unit.

21sttwenty-first
25thtwenty-fifth
32ndthirty-second
58thfifty-eighth
64thsixty-fourth
79thseventy-ninth
83rdeighty-third
99thninety-ninth

Higher ordinals are not often written in words, unless they are round numbers (thousandth, millionth, billionth). They are written using digits and letters as described below. Here are some rules that should be borne in mind.

If the units digit is:0123456789
write this after the numberthstndrdthththththth

These ordinal abbreviations are actually hybrid contractions of a numeral and a word. 1st is "1" + "st" from "first". Similarly, "nd" is used for "second" and "rd" for "third". In the legal field and in some older publications, the ordinal abbreviation for "second" and "third" is simply "d".

NB: The practice of using "d" to denote "second" and "third" is still often followed in the numeric designations of units in the US armed forces, for example, 533d Squadron.

Any ordinal name that doesn't end in "first", "second", or "third", ends in "th".

Dates[edit]

See also: Calendar date

There are a number of ways to read years. The following table offers a list of valid pronunciations and alternate pronunciations for any given year of the Gregorian calendar.

YearMost common pronunciation methodAlternative methods
1 BC(The year) One Before Christ (BC)1 before the Common era (BCE)
1(The year) One Anno Domini (AD)of the Common era (CE)
In the year of Our Lord 1
235Two thirty-fiveTwo-three-five
Two hundred (and) thirty-five
911Nine elevenNine-one-one
Nine hundred (and) eleven
999Nine ninety-nineNine-nine-nine
Nine hundred (and) ninety-nine
Triple nine
1000One thousandTen hundred
1K
1004One thousand (and) fourTen oh-four
1010Ten tenOne thousand (and) ten
1050Ten fiftyOne thousand (and) fifty
1225Twelve twenty-fiveOne-two-two-five
One thousand, two hundred (and) twenty-five
Twelve-two-five
1900Nineteen hundredOne thousand, nine hundred
Nineteen aught
1901Nineteen oh-oneNineteen hundred (and) one
One thousand, nine hundred (and) one
Nineteen aught one
1919Nineteen nineteenNineteen hundred (and) nineteen
One thousand, nine hundred (and) nineteen
1999Nineteen ninety-nineNineteen hundred (and) ninety-nine
One thousand, nine hundred (and) ninety-nine
2000Two thousandTwenty hundred
Two triple-oh
Y2K
2001Two thousand (and) oneTwenty oh-one
Twenty hundred (and) one
Two double-oh-one
Two oh-oh-one
2009Two thousand (and) nineTwenty oh-nine
Twenty hundred (and) nine
Two double-oh-nine
Two oh-oh-nine
2010Two thousand (and) ten
Twenty ten [4]
Twenty hundred (and) ten
two-oh-one-oh

Fractions and decimals[edit]

In spoken English, ordinal numbers are also used to quantify the denominator of a fraction. Thus "fifth" can mean the element between fourth and sixth, or the fraction created by dividing the unit into five pieces. In this usage, the ordinal numbers can be pluralized: one seventh, two sevenths. The sole exception to this rule is division by two. The ordinal term "second" can only refer to location in a series; for fractions English speakers use the term 'half' (plural "halves").

Here are some common English fractions (known linguistically as "partitive numerals"):[5]

1/16one sixteenth
1/10 or 0.1one tenth
1/8one eighth
2/10 or 0.2two tenths
1/4one quarter or (mainly American English) one fourth
3/10 or 0.3three tenths
1/3one third
3/8three eighths
4/10 or 0.4four tenths
1/2one half
6/10 or 0.6six tenths
5/8five eighths
2/3two thirds
7/10 or 0.7seven tenths
3/4three quarters or three fourths
8/10 or 0.8eight tenths
7/8seven eighths
9/10 or 0.9nine tenths
15/16fifteen sixteenths

Alternatively, and for greater numbers, one may say for 1/2 "one over two", for 5/8 "five over eight", and so on. This "over" form is also widely used in mathematics.

Numbers with a decimal point may be read as a cardinal number, then "and", then another cardinal number followed by an indication of the significance of the second cardinal number (mainly U.S.); or as a cardinal number, followed by "point", and then by the digits of the fractional part. The indication of significance takes the form of the denominator of the fraction indicating division by the smallest power of ten larger than the second cardinal. This is modified when the first cardinal is zero, in which case neither the zero nor the "and" is pronounced, but the zero is optional in the "point" form of the fraction.

For example:

In English the decimal point was originally printed in the center of the line (0·002), but with the advent of the typewriter it was placed at the bottom of the line, so that a single key could be used as a full stop/period and as a decimal point. In many non-English languages a full-stop/period at the bottom of the line is used as a thousands separator with a comma being used as the decimal point.

Fractions together with an integer are read as follows:

A space is required between the whole number and the fraction; however, if a special fraction character is used like "½", then the space can be done without, e.g.

Whether to use digits or words[edit]

With very little deviation, most grammatical texts rule that the numbers zero to nine inclusive should be "written out" – meaning instead of "1" and "2", one would write "one" and "two".[6]

Example: "I have two apples." (Preferred)
Example: "I have 2 apples."

After "nine", one can head straight back into the 10, 11, 12, etc., although some write out the numbers until "twelve".

Example: "I have 28 grapes." (Preferred)
Example: "I have twenty-eight grapes."

Another common usage is to write out any number that can be expressed as one or two words, and use figures otherwise.

Examples:
"There are six million dogs." (Preferred)
"There are 6,000,000 dogs."
"That is one hundred and twenty-five oranges." (British English)
"That is one hundred twenty-five oranges." (US-American English)
"That is 125 oranges." (Preferred)

Numbers at the beginning of a sentence should also be written out.

The above rules are not always used. In literature, larger numbers might be spelled out. On the other hand, digits might be more commonly used in technical or financial articles, where many figures are discussed. In particular, the two different forms should not be used for figures that serve the same purpose; for example, it is inelegant to write, "Between day twelve and day 15 of the study, the population doubled."

Empty numbers[edit]

Colloquial English has a small vocabulary of empty numbers that can be employed when there is uncertainty as to the precise number to use, but it is desirable to define a general range: specifically, the terms "umpteen", "umpty", and "zillion". These are derived etymologically from the range affixes:

The prefix "ump-" is added to the first two suffixes to produce the empty numbers "umpteen" and "umpty": it is of uncertain origin. There is a noticeable absence of an empty number in the hundreds range.

Usage of empty numbers:

See also Placeholder name.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]