# Why numbers are sometimes pronounced as individual numbers?

456

four hundred fifty-six.

four, five, six.

Is there any rule or something? Is the second one just for faster pronunciation?

• Personally I only use "four five six" if the information is not actually about a numeric value. I.e. if I count 456 different things, then I use "four hundered fifty-six", but if I want to go with the train 456 (which is not usually the one after 455), I am going with the "four five six". – Joachim Sauer Feb 13 '13 at 15:12
• Don't forget four fifty-six - another way you might hear this pronounced. – J.R. Feb 13 '13 at 16:00

If there is a general rule to find, then it's almost certainly down to speed.

[I'm in the UK, there may be regional differences]

Bus numbers are generally read as numbers up to 100 (read as "The eighty-eight runs from Vauxhall to Westminster, as does the eighty-seven") and as separate digits from 101 onwards ("The four-three-six runs from Paddington to Lewisham").

Similarly with road numbers: "The A twenty-seven runs from Hastings to Bournemouth; the A two-seven-two runs from Winchester to Heathfield."

However, if you're actually counting, then it's always a number:

John 21:10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn.

That number would always be read as "one hundred [and] fifty-three", not individual digits.

• Related. Regional differences may apply. Incidentally (but related as well), I'd pronounce that reference as "John twenty-one ten." – J.R. Feb 13 '13 at 16:03
• In Canada, one might also say "The four thirty-six runs from Regina to Saskatoon." – Wayne Johnston Feb 18 '13 at 6:34

Where I am (New Jersey) you will generally hear "four hundred and fifty-six" with the occasionally "four hundred fifty-six." I use individual numbers when I speak (especially to my kids) so that there can be no confusion (Fifty? I thought you said fifteen.)

The rule (which, I take it from the other answers, might be confined to the US) is that a string of digit that doesn't name a quantity are pronounced individually. So

There are 101 cars on Highway 101.

is typically said

There are one-hundred-and-one cars on highway one-oh-one.

(Similarly, the quantity 0 is called "zero", but the digit 0, in a phone number, for example, is "oh".)

• A string of digits may also be used as a noun. To use your highway example, you often hear "I took the one-oh-one" or "I took one-oh-one" instead of "I took highway one-oh-one". – Wayne Johnston Feb 18 '13 at 6:40
• @WayneJohnston -- only people from LA say "the one-oh-one". – Malvolio Mar 6 '13 at 8:42

Is the second one just for faster pronunciation?

It's just more colloquial.

Is there any rule or something?

Sort of. Saying 456 as four hundred fifty-six, seems to be an American thing. It's not literally, the English way to pronounce it.

English and other British people would pronounce this and other, such numbers with the word and between the hundred and the next number. Therefore, they would pronounce it as four hundred and fifty-six.