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How are dates formally spoken? Are there any differences in the British and American versions?

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Why the down vote? I am new to the community. –  user20934 Jun 6 '12 at 10:18
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econo, welcome to the community. I think your question may have gotten downvoted it could be viewed as "not constructive," which, in EL&U-speak, means: "a question that might solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion," or is "overly broad or vague," or is one that exhibits "very little research effort." Please remember, though, downvotes are directed at the question, not the user, so the fact that your first question got a few downvotes shouldn't discourage you from hanging around, learning the ropes, and trying again. –  J.R. Jun 6 '12 at 10:35
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@RegDwightΒВBẞ8: Aren't all those possible duplicates about how to write and how to format dates rather than about how they are spoken? –  Amos M. Carpenter Jun 6 '12 at 11:52
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@RegDwightΒВBẞ8: No, that's putting up a bit of a strawman ;-) I do maintain that there is enough of a difference between how we "write out" and how we "speak out" dates to warrant a separate question. Consider, for instance, the U.S. date notation article I linked to in a comment below, which points out that, while formats other than "month day year" are gaining in popularity in the States in written form, they are still uncommon in spoken AE (apart from one exception). –  Amos M. Carpenter Jun 6 '12 at 13:41

4 Answers 4

How are date spoken, formally? Are there any differences in the British and American versions?

From my experience, there are differences in the British and American versions.

Throughout my life, the way that dates have been spoken in the UK, has been the same as the way they have been written. That is, with the day, month and year; in that order. For example, the fifth of June 2012. That would normally be written as 5.6.2012. Sometimes, people add the day of the week, before the number of the day. For example, Tuesday the fifth of June 2012. That was always the way that was taught in schools and used in higher education, work and other activities.

That has started to change sometimes, in the last few years. People on television and the radio are the main ones who have started using the American date system. Not many ordinary people have.

Having met Americans and seen plenty of American writing on the internet and in publications, I know that they do it differently. The way that dates are spoken in the USA, has been the same as the way they have been written. That is, with the month, day and year; in that order. For example, June the fifth 2012. That would normally be written as 6.5.2012.

That's the basic way but, it's not the only way. I have noticed that there are abbreviations of this, used by some Americans. The use of these depend on who is speaking. Some Americans say dates without the word the. For example, June fifth 2012. I have even heard some change the pronunciation of the day number, so that it would be just the number. For example, June five 2012.

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“Two thousand twelve” alternates with “twenty twelve”. I perceive the former to be more formal, but that may be a figment of my own delusion. –  tchrist Jun 6 '12 at 15:44
    
Yes. For years prior to 2000, people almost always say the century followed by the year within the century, e.g. "nineteen fifty-two". If the year is only one digit, we say "oh", like "sixteen oh four". If the year is zero, we say "hundred", as in "eighteen hundred". I'm hard pressed to tihnk of times when someone read the year 1914 as "one thousand nine hundred fourteen". But starting with 2000 we seem to have a new scheme of saying "two thousand" followed by the year within the century. Maybe people think "twenty hundred" sounds awkward. –  Jay Jun 6 '12 at 16:21
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You're right but, there's a detail worth mentioning. Saying “Two thousand twelve” is probably from American English. Here in the UK, people would say “Two thousand and twelve” or "one thousand nine hundred and fourteen". –  Tristan Jun 8 '12 at 11:51
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You make an important point about pronouncing years. They would normally be pronounced as the century number followed by the year within the century. 1952 would be pronounced as "nineteen fifty-two". As you mentioned, if the year number had only one digit, "oh" would be inserted before it. For example, 1902 and 1806 would be pronounced as "nineteen oh two" and "eighteen oh six". –  Tristan Jun 8 '12 at 12:00
up vote 3 down vote accepted

Consider 30 March 1993.

British:

  • March the thirtieth, nineteen ninety-three

  • The thirtieth of March, nineteen ninety-three

American:

  • March thirtieth, nineteen ninety-three
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@J.R. The question is specifically about formal speaking. –  user20934 Jun 6 '12 at 9:47
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"Formal speaking" is a bit vague, don't you think? If I was giving announcements at a large conference, and announcing the date of next year's convention, I'd consider that formal speaking, but I still might use any of the variants I provided. –  J.R. Jun 6 '12 at 9:49
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@J.R. I have provided the most formal versions possible (because I think that's what the OP is asking for). PS- Why the downvote? –  user20934 Jun 6 '12 at 9:53
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@J.R.: Are you really willing to open that can of worms about American dates (which have the medium value, followed by the smallest, and finally the largest value)? ;-) I think that's where rudra is coming from. In my experience, Americans use the "March thirtieth" form far more frequently than "thirtieth of March" (or simply "thirty March", as Australians would commonly say). –  Amos M. Carpenter Jun 6 '12 at 11:49
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@aaamos The point is that "the thirtieth of March" is perfectly normal for Americans to say formally or informally, whereas "thirty March" is quite rare either formally or informally, regardless of whether it is more common than "March thirtieth." –  choster Jun 6 '12 at 12:11

In formal, spoken British English, as far as I can find evidence, the date is spoken in various forms.

For example, this transcript of the Hutton Inquiry shows that the date is referred to as

  • Nth Month e.g. 4th July
  • Nth, e.g. 7th
  • the Nth, e.g. the 8th
  • Day Nth Month, e.g. Monday 7th July.

So in formal circumstances (in British English) there isn't a set way to say dates.

In formal American English, there seems to be a consensus, although I've only seen 2 transcripts so far, of Month N, e.g. April 23. The transcript I've seen are Galloway v The US Senate (I've not watched the video, that might be more enlightening) and U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing on Afghanistan.

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That particular transcript doesn't show exactly how the date was said (unless it was "the 8th" where it's referring to a particular day as opposed to any other). I suspect that an "of" was inserted in speech which doesn't appear in writing. It's also possible that "4th July" in the transcript might have been said as "July the 4th". –  Andrew Leach Jun 6 '12 at 12:31
    
@Andrew Which particular transcript? Why would you say a transcript is not an exact transcript? –  Matt Эллен Jun 6 '12 at 12:32
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Sorry: the Hutton Inquiry transcript. A transcript would not record how a date is said, because it's written down so it's subject to writing convention. It certainly wouldn't include "of" in a date if it were spoken; that's not important. The date is important. Different conventions may apply to US transcripts. –  Andrew Leach Jun 6 '12 at 12:42
    
@Andrew I would expect a transcript to record exactly what is said. Otherwise, what's the point? Transcripts are meant to be word for word. If I could afford to get courtroom transcripts, I would expect them to be accurate too. –  Matt Эллен Jun 6 '12 at 12:46
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It does record what was said. A date was spoken, and recorded. It definitely will not record exactly how the date was spoken including the word of (or its absence). Sorry. –  Andrew Leach Jun 6 '12 at 12:50

2/2/1993

The normal way to say such a date in British English is “the second of February, nineteen ninety-three”.

However, a very formal way to speak such a date (almost never used) is “the second day of February, nineteen hundred and ninety-three”.

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protected by RegDwigнt Sep 21 '12 at 22:55

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