Questions relating to the use of numbers or numerals in speaking or writing English.

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103
votes
13answers
4k views

Why do English writers avoid explicit numerals?

The junction has a stop sign on each of the four entrances. The junction has a stop sign on each of the 4 entrances. The first is preferred, for some reason, by many English texts. Why? I ...
60
votes
5answers
3k views

When does thousand turn into thousands?

My boyfriend and I are arguing whether thousands of miles means 1000+ or 2000+ miles. The first argument is that 1000+ is over 1000 and therefore 'thousands of miles' by rounding up. The other ...
42
votes
3answers
11k views

Why do eleven and twelve get unique words and not end in “-teen”?

In short, why is it not oneteen and twoteen, and we start at thirteen in English? In another thread, I supposed that despite that fact that people have ten fingers, amounts of items leading up to and ...
36
votes
3answers
11k views

What is the plural form of “zero”?

I tried looking on Google, but there are some fairly contradictory results. I thought I'd ask you guys so we could get an authoritative answer on the subject!
35
votes
8answers
38k views

Plurals of acronyms, letters, numbers — use an apostrophe or not?

When I was in high school back in the 1970s, I was taught that to make a plural of an acronym, a letter, or a number, one should add an apostrophe and "s". Like I would have written this sentence, ...
32
votes
9answers
4k views

“1 in 10 are” or “1 in 10 is”?

Take the examples: "One in ten children are dyslexic." "One in ten children is dyslexic." "One in ten children has dyslexia." "One in ten children have dyslexia." The "one" is singular so 2 and 3 ...
27
votes
5answers
10k views

How can I write out 1.5?

I would like to write out (1.5) in words and also (5.0). How would I do that?
25
votes
1answer
1k views

What are these symbols called in the English language?

You see these all the time in movies, usually when some poor guy has been wrongly imprisoned and begins counting the days since his incarceration, but what are these markings called? I used to know, ...
24
votes
3answers
5k views

Is two-thirds plural?

Is 2/3 always, sometimes or never plural? E.g. 1a) 2/3 of the pizza were eaten. 1b) 2/3 of the pizza was eaten. 2a) 2/3 of the visitors were men. 2b) 2/3 of the visitors was men. I ...
21
votes
3answers
23k views

Should there be a space before a percent sign?

Should there be a space before a percent sign or not? Should you write 20% or 20 %? I'm not sure if there is any consensus about this or not. Is one way more common than the other?
20
votes
7answers
10k views

Should we use plural or singular for a fraction of a mile?

I have seen people say both 0.25 mile and 0.25 miles. Should we use plural or singular for a fraction of a mile?
20
votes
5answers
2k views

What method of counting puts Twelfth Night on January 6th?

I know English has (or at least had) some strange usages of eve and night, but I still can’t figure out how December 25th and 12 can be combined to come up with January 6th. (This stems from my ...
19
votes
2answers
1k views

Plurality of numbers between -1 and 1

If I recall correctly, the Académie française states that, for French, quantities comprised within [-1,1] are singular, and anything else is plural. This means, for instance, that we should say (in ...
18
votes
6answers
5k views

“Firstly” or “first”?

Which is more correct? How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. First, thy eyes gaze deep into my soul. Second,... or There are four reasons why all should hail the Hypno-Toad. Firstly, ...
18
votes
1answer
382 views

When and why did the number reading order change [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: 19th century English texts occasionally use germanic-style number words, such as “four-and-twenty”. When did this fall out of use? In Arabic and even in ...
17
votes
5answers
2k views

Why is the unit of measure placed before the value for currencies? Are there other measures where the unit precedes value?

$1,000 is pronounced as "one thousand dollars". Reading from left to right, it seems like it would make more sense to write the value as: 1,000$. This way the pronunciation of the value follows the ...
16
votes
5answers
2k views

What do you do when a sentence ends with a decimal?

In a sentence like "The answer is 0.8." the period looks awkward after "0.8". Is there a rule for a situation like this? Sometimes I put a space before the period like this: "The answer is 0.8 ." ...
16
votes
12answers
7k views

How do you correctly say large numbers

I saw a post on The daily What which links to a video where a person counts from 1 to 100,000. Is he saying a large portion of the numbers wrong? Back in high school my algebra teacher was extremely ...
15
votes
11answers
6k views

American vs. British English: meaning of “One hundred and fifty”

I've noticed that Americans do not say "and" when speaking numbers: for example, 150 would be pronounced "one hundred fifty". I and most other British-English speakers would pronounce it "one hundred ...
15
votes
4answers
1k views

19th century English texts occasionally use Germanic-style number words, such as “four-and-twenty”. When did this fall out of use?

19th century English texts occasionally use Germanic-style number words, such as "four-and-twenty", but the same text would also have the modern "twenty-four" in places (see e.g. Conan-Doyle for ...
15
votes
2answers
512 views

Is there a system for creating words for ordinal numbers?

I'm not sure if "sequential" is the right word, but what is the system for creating a sequence of numbers like this: primary (as in 1st in choice or importance) secondary (as in 2nd in choice or ...
15
votes
2answers
17k views

“X times as many as” or “X times more than”

Suppose John has 5 sweets. Is there any difference between the following two sentences? Jack has 3 times as many sweets as John. Jack has 3 times more sweets than John. I prefer the first ...
15
votes
3answers
742 views

Billion and other large numbers

Traditionally a billion in American English means 109 (1,000,000,000, a thousand million) while in British English it means 1012 (a million million) with milliard meaning 109. Is this still the case ...
15
votes
4answers
3k views

Why are numbers usually written twice in contracts?

In contracts numbers are usually written twice: in numerical and literal form. I understand the vast majority of text in a typical contract can be safely deleted without impacting the core message ...
15
votes
5answers
4k views

Why does the gorilla weigh exactly 800 pounds? [closed]

It is common in American English to refer to a powerful person or organization as an 800 pound gorilla. The expression makes sense -- a gorilla of that size would certainly be intimidating -- but ...
14
votes
7answers
2k views

Is it proper grammar to refer to four digit number in hundreds?

Sometimes you will hear people refer to four digit numbers in terms of hundreds. For example, sometimes people will say fifteen hundred when talking about the number 1500. Is this proper? What are ...
14
votes
2answers
415 views

Why has the word “thrice” fallen out of common usage?

I'm an American living in America, but my workplace has a lot of immigrants from India here. They all use "thrice" very commonly, which is wonderful to my ears! Thrice is such a delightful word. ...
13
votes
3answers
424 views

Is there a word like cardinal or ordinal but for the “single, double, triple” series?

The words one, two, three, and so on are the cardinal numbers. Similarly, first, second, third, and so on are the ordinal numbers. Is there a similar term for the words single, double, triple, ...
12
votes
7answers
8k views

What does the term “86'd” relate to?

What does it mean when someone or something is referred to as being "86'd"?
12
votes
3answers
10k views

“Amount” vs. “number” vs. “quantity”

For what values of x does one write the number of x, the amount of x, or the quantity of x?
12
votes
4answers
14k views

What is the origin of the counting prefixes: uni-, bi-/di-, tri-, quad-, etc.?

Many English words use the prefixes uni-, bi-/di-, tri-, quad- and so on to mean one, two, three, and four. For example: A unicycle has one wheel, a bicycle two, and a tricycle three. I presume ...
12
votes
2answers
675 views

Indefinite article in the “An [adjective] [number] [plural noun]” construction

I wasn't sure how best to phrase the title of this question. I'm interested in constructions of the following form: An estimated 50 people died in the bombing. 'An estimated' could be ...
12
votes
0answers
393 views

How can I properly ask this question? [duplicate]

I want to ask a question so that I can get the answer which gives the position of the President. So the answer I want to get is: Barack Hussein Obama is the 44th President of the United States. ...
11
votes
5answers
1k views

Is there a word for numbers between 10 and 99?

I'd like to find such a word instead of saying "greater than 10 but less than 100".
11
votes
6answers
7k views

Why are numbers sometimes spelled out and then numerals specified as well? [closed]

I'm referring to the peculiar habit I sometimes see in formal documents, where a number is given numerically after it's spelled out. It seems quite redundant: I need five (5) kumquats, stat! ...
11
votes
1answer
732 views

Fractions as phrasal (compound) adjectives

Is there a difference between a written-out fraction that serves as a noun: He gave me one half of his sandwich. and a written-out fraction serving as an adjective: I gave her a one-half ...
11
votes
4answers
1k views

Reading out numbers in English

What are the accepted guidelines for reading out numbers in English? For example, should 1351 be read out as "one thousand and three hundred and fifty one", or should the "and"s be removed ...
10
votes
3answers
579 views

What do we call the “rd” in “3ʳᵈ” and the “th” in “9ᵗʰ”?

Our numbers have a specific two-letter onomatopoeia that tells us how the number sounds. For example 9th 3rd 301st What do we call these special sounds?
10
votes
3answers
4k views

“A million and a half” vs. “one and a half million”

Every so often, I come across the phrase "a million and a half X" - which always strikes me as strange: it suggests 1000000.5 of the thing. I was taught to use instead "one and a half million" to be ...
10
votes
2answers
365 views

Is “-th” still a productive suffix in English?

The main question here is whether using -(e)th to create ordinals out of cardinals1 is still considered a productive suffix in English. Is it? If so, then does it matter whether we are in a formal ...
9
votes
5answers
4k views

How do I pronounce “ratio 1:1”?

How do I pronounce "ratio 1:1"? Should I pronounce it "ratio 1 to 1"?
9
votes
3answers
213 views

“Nine out of 10”

Most style guides call for spelling out numbers less than 10, and using numerals for those 10 and over. While reading a magazine today, I saw the phrase nine out of 10, and it struck me as wrong even ...
9
votes
2answers
5k views

Why is “one” pronounced as “wan”, not “oh-ne”?

Why is one pronounced as "wan", not "oh-ne"? Why are the spelling and pronunciation of one so strange? In French, one is written as un, and pronounced as "oe" (with nasal sound). The sound is similar ...
9
votes
1answer
1k views

How do I determine subject and subject complement in “A side-effect is the spread of commercialese to other domains.”?

Consider this example: Commercialese is an instrument of art, designed to enrich and invigorate our language—surely you will all agree with this—, and we should encourage newcomers to learn ...
8
votes
3answers
713 views

What is the correct term to describe 'primary', 'secondary', etc

What is the correct term to describe the words in the following sequence: primary, secondary, tertiary, quaternary, quinary, senary, septenary, octonary, nonary, denary, duodenary, etc. I am thinking ...
8
votes
4answers
2k views

How can I form a word like “quadruple” for any number I want?

I'm not sure what these are called, but how can I form a word like "quadruple" for any number I want? Like 5× as much is quintuple, what is 31× as much or 147× as much? I want to know how they are ...
8
votes
10answers
6k views

Does “nineteen-hundreds” refer to 1900–1909 or 1900–1999?

The words "nineteen-hundreds" to me mean strictly 1900–1909. I've noticed several times that people, invariably North American, use these words to mean "the twentieth century", or 1900–1999, or ...
8
votes
3answers
9k views

What follows next in the sequence “unary, binary, ternary…”?

I looked on Oxford's online dictionary and was able to find the names identifying orders of a given degree: primary secondary tertiary quaternary quinary senary septenary octonary nonary denary -- ...
8
votes
4answers
561 views

Transcribing long repeating phone numbers

I always have this problem of telling people my phone number which consists of a series of repeating numbers: 184 555 5555 (DO NOT CALL, this is just as an example) I can tell people it is: ...
7
votes
3answers
2k views

How much exactly is increased when it is “increased by 1.1”?

I saw it in a text book, and a similar problem that also appeared in the book is "3 times faster", which is already asked. Simply speaking, the book says: Unfortunately, it increases the CPI by ...