by Liz Walter
In a recent lesson, I discovered that many of my students did not know how to read numbers aloud, especially long numbers. Numbers are a basic part of the language and it can sometimes be very important to say them clearly!
One important thing to remember is that we say and after hundreds, before the tens (20, 30, etc) or units (1, 2, etc):
319: three hundred and nineteen
507: five hundred and seven
This is also true when the word hundred occurs in longer numbers:
140, 000: a hundred and forty thousand
325, 250: three hundred and twenty five thousand, two hundred and fifty
We also say it in numbers over 1,000 where there are no hundreds but there are tens or units:
1, 056: one thousand and fifty six
The second important thing is that we do not put an ‘s’ on hundred, thousand or million, even when the number is more than 1.
There were five thousand people at the show.
Another common learner error is to use of after numbers. You should not say of before the things you are counting:
There are around a hundred and fifty fish in the pond.
There are around a hundred and fifty of fish in the pond.
However we do use the phrases hundreds of, thousands of and millions of to describe a general large number of something:
Millions of people watched the wedding on TV.
Some of my students also asked me whether they should say a hundred/thousand, etc or one hundred/thousand, etc in a numbers such as 120 or 1,350.
Reference books don’t give much guidance on this question, but this is what I have noticed:
For a round number, i.e. 100, 1,000, 100,000,000, we are more likely to use a unless we want to be particularly emphatic about the number:
We employ over a thousand people.
Can you supply one thousand steel posts?
For hundreds that are more than 100, we are most likely to use a, though again the use of one makes it more emphatic:
You can put a hundred and fifty CDs in this case.
You have been late for work one hundred and twenty three times this year.
If the hundred is in the middle of a longer number, we always use one:
We sold one thousand, one hundred books.
We almost always use one with thousands or millions:
The city’s population is one million, two hundred thousand.
In my next post, I will look at the way we talk about numbers in mathematics – for example how to say things like 9.3, 5 ¾ or 6 ÷2.