One thousand, one hundred and ninety three: how to say numbers (1)

by Liz Walter

UpperCut Images/Getty
UpperCut Images/Getty

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.

32 thoughts on “One thousand, one hundred and ninety three: how to say numbers (1)

  1. Pingback: One thousand, one hundred and ninety three: how to say numbers (1) – Cambridge Dictionary About words blog (Aug 31, 2016) | Editorial Words

  2. Dennis Sharp

    I was taught in school that the word “and” should specifically not be included in numbers. i.e.: one hundred twenty, not one hundred and twenty.

    1. Liz Walter

      That’s interesting. Where did you go to school? I’m wondering if it’s more common to leave out the ‘and’ in American English. In British English it’s certainly normal to have it.

      1. Michael Eby

        I was taught that as well. I think it was second grade when I was told “say ‘one hundred one,’ not ‘a hundred and one’.” The latter was considered wrong both for the use of “a” instead of “one” and for the use of “and.”

        But it’s not actually wrong, and in fact in America people would say “a hundred and one” more often than “one hundred one,” though both are commonly used. It’s one of those “rules” someone made up and passed along. I’ve noticed that for numbers larger than 200, it is more common to leave off “and,” so someone might say “a hundred and twenty” but “two hundred twenty.”

    2. Faye

      Same here. Ms. Klostermann’s 3rd grade class. St. Louis, Missouri.
      It drives me nuts when reporters and journalists on TV say “and” in their numbers.

  3. Victor Hagen

    This lesson has solved my problems of how to spell numbers, thanks for the useful one. You may find some ideas for your next lessons from this comment, i guess.

    1. Liz Walter

      Because the *sound* that European starts with is like a ‘y’. In phonetics, it’s /j/. So it sounds like a consonant. We only use ‘an’ when the *sound* is like a vowel. Most words that begin with vowels sound like vowels, but a few don’t. ‘Uniform’ is another example where you need ‘a’.

  4. Alexandre M. Coelho

    Dear Liz,
    Thanks a lot for this post. It’s very useful. And I’m sure that the next post about numbers in mathematics will be as useful as this post.

  5. Tom Tweedle

    When I read this article I was surprised with all the use of “and” in number recitation.
    In 1952-1953, I was in second grade in Salem county, New Jersey.
    My male teacher at the time told us the correct way to say/read numbers was not to use “and” anywhere in the recitation of the number. Ever since then, I have heard more numbers with the and than without.
    I don’t know if his lesson was right or wrong, but to this day I still leave out the “and” whenever I state numbers.
    As my church treasurer, I need to recite the dollars spent at our annual meeting, and also the dollar amounts planned for our next year’s budget. I still remember that second grade lesson each year when I give my two reports. (I also hear the improper use of “I” in the object position quite often. Example: John invited Sam and I to the baseball game.)

    1. Liz Walter

      Thank you, Shradda! Yes, you do need to use plural for units over 1: 200 kilometers (or kilometres as we say in British English!)

  6. Liz Walter

    From these comments it does appear that in American English, some people favour leaving out the ‘and’. However, in British English, we always include it and it would sound quite odd to omit it.

  7. Pingback: One thousand, one hundred and ninety three: how to say numbers (1) | Editorials Today

  8. Pingback: Three and three quarters: How to say numbers (2) – About Words – Cambridge Dictionaries Online blog

  9. Old Zeb

    Thank you for your article!

    Over here in the states, we seem to use the conjunction at a logical break: between units and fraction, as an example. While spme deprecate this form, it may have basis from our currency. When whiting the text of the value on a financial instrument, the convention is… One thousand, one hundred fifteen dollars AND twenty-seven cents, emphasizing the decimal point. (No research implied, just memories from my youth.)

  10. Hi Liz,

    I’ve got a question on hyphenating the compound numbers from twenty-one through ninety-nine: is it a rule to hyphenate such numbers, or perhaps is it to do with AmE/BrE writing conventions?

    Thank you.

    1. Liz Walter

      I don’t think it’s a hard and fast rule to hyphenate, although it is often taught this way. If I saw ‘twenty nine’, I would not consider it an error.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s