Three and three quarters: How to say numbers (2)

by Liz Walter

Fotosearch/Getty
Fotosearch/Getty

In my last post One thousand one hundred and ninety three: how to say numbers (1) I looked at how to say large numbers. In this post I will look at other types of numbers: mathematical numbers, telephone numbers, and years in dates.

I’ll start with words we need for talking about numbers in the context of mathematics.

For decimal numbers, we use the word point for the dot, and we say the numbers after the point separately:

3.2 three point two

9.18 nine point one eight

55.39 fifty-five point three nine

For fractions, we use the word and before the fraction.

2 ½ two and a half

1 ¾ one and three quarters

For all fractions except half and quarter, we use ordinal numbers for the second number in the fraction:

four fifths

6 ⅞ six and seven eighths

For fractions containing numbers over 9, we use the word over and we say the numbers as full numbers, not separately:

15/33 fifteen over thirty-three

Other mathematical numbers include superscript numbers. For the superscript numbers 2 and 3, we say squared and cubed.

42  four squared

153 fifteen cubed

For other numbers, we say to the power (of):

319 three to the power of nineteen

147 fourteen to the power of seven

Negative numbers are numbers less than zero, written with a minus sign (-) in front of them. We usually use the word minus to say them aloud, though it is possible to say negative too:

-850 minus eight hundred and fifty/negative eight hundred and fifty

-1.3 minus one point three/negative one point three

Another form of numbers we often need to say aloud is telephone numbers. We say all the numbers separately, and we often pause in the middle of a long set of numbers. For the number 0, you can say zero or oh /əʊ/:

01283 569904 zero one two eight three, five six nine, nine zero four

In British English, when two numbers next to each other are the same, we sometimes say double:

01223 455933 zero/oh one double two three, four double five, nine double three

Finally, let’s look at years and how we pronounce them when we say them aloud.

1500/1900 fifteen hundred/nineteen hundred

2000 (the year) two thousand

1904 nineteen hundred and four/nineteen oh four

2005 two thousand and five/twenty oh five

1945 nineteen forty-five

2016 two thousand and sixteen/twenty sixteen

Numbers are an important part of the language, and it can be difficult to know how to use them in different contexts. I hope these two posts have helped.

25 thoughts on “Three and three quarters: How to say numbers (2)

  1. Pingback: Three and three quarters: How to say numbers (2) – Cambridge Dictionary About words blog (Sep 14, 2016) | Editorial Words

  2. Pingback: Three and three quarters: How to say numbers (2) – learningenglish988

  3. Pingback: Three and three quarters: How to say numbers (2) | Editorials Today

  4. acidkike

    I’ve been expecting a post like this for a long time. Thanks a lot, it’s very helpful as I am a chemist. Thus, numbers is me everyday tool. Though I’ve got a question: is there an easier way to say powers in English? I mean, rather than saying ‘ to the power (of)’ we might say ‘three up 4’, for instance?

    I’m looking forward to hearing you about more posts like this one

  5. Pingback: Three and three quarters: How to say numbers (2) – shukrimahmoodmohamed

    1. Liz Walter

      That’s interesting! I wouldn’t say it’s wrong if it’s the usual way to say it. In that case, it’s just an Indian English usage as opposed to a British English usage. We only say ‘three by four’ when we’re talking about the measurement of a 2-dimensional shape, e.g. a piece of wood.

    1. Liz Walter

      I *think* that if they have two numbers, they’d be e.g. BA twenty seven, but if the numbers are longer, they’d be said individually, e.g. BA three oh five. But I’m willing to be corrected by a more frequent flyer!

  6. Dear Liz,

    It’s a wonderful post. Thank you very much.

    I think mathematical numbers related to division (6 ÷ 2, for example) weren’t dealt with here. If you don’t mind, just leave us a comment on it, please?

    Thanks, again.

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