# Is there a shorter term for "divided by" in American English?

Given the following expression:

5 (+-×÷%) 4

You would say "5 plus 4," "5 minus 4," "5 times 4," "5 divided by 4," and "5 mod(ulo) 4" respectively.

As far as I know, "divided by" does not have any shorthand form in the same way the above examples do.

• "5 by 4" actually indicates multiplication in common usage (or, more properly, the dimensions of the sides of an object or matrix). The percentage sign is commonly used as the modulo operator in computer languages. By the same token, though, division is expressed by a virgule (/) rather than a division sign (÷) in those same languages.
– bye
Feb 20 '11 at 16:49
• @Jasper I included it because I'm into computer programming and it fit along with my examples. "5 mod 4" is how one would say it informally, but the correct phrasing is "5 modulo 4." Feb 20 '11 at 17:26
• Isn't "by" also usually used to read a differential-- "dy/dx" > "dy by dx" doesn't strictly mean "dy over/divided by dx". Feb 20 '11 at 17:32
• The way you phrase your question is fallacious. Might want to edit it. Also, the way it's phrased it identifies itself as too broad or vague, according to the FAQ. I'm just saying ... Feb 20 '11 at 18:37
• In your example phrases, plus, minus, times and modulo are not verbs. Feb 20 '11 at 18:54

Perhaps alternatives suffice to the extent that no great pressure exists to shorten "divided by"?

"5 over 4"?

"five fourths"?

• No, it doesn't -- it merely describes the statement as if it were written in fractional notation rather than as if it were written using the division sign (÷).
– bye
Feb 20 '11 at 16:44
• I almost always use "over." I also use "in(to)" sometimes, but that usually takes people a minute to figure out. Everyone I've worked homework problems with understands "over," though. Feb 20 '11 at 17:27
• @jae: It most certainly does not. Unfortunately the state of understanding of mathematics is so poor, that people think division, fractions, ratio, odds are all different things. They are not. Feb 20 '11 at 17:40
• don't worry jae, I had the same connotation in mind. native germans speaker as well. Feb 20 '11 at 19:10
• @Martijn: the pronunciation I’m familiar with is "a choose b". I’m sure there are other options, though!
– PLL
Feb 21 '11 at 13:35

What about "per"? While not usually used in the same context as plus, minus, etc., it does mean "divided by".

• As in 5 per 4 as an example for 5/4? That doesn't sound right, and most native english speakers wouldn't understand you. Feb 20 '11 at 21:41
• It works for rates (which also involve division). Five miles in four hours is the same as five-fourths of a mile per hour (1.25 MPH). In that case, 1.25 miles per hour sounds much better than 1.25 miles over one hour (or 1.25 miles divided by one hour) even though they are both technically correct.
Feb 21 '11 at 0:34
• @advs89 But that's reserved pretty exclusively for dimensional analysis, and not actual division. You never simplify a "per" expression; you just cancel things which appear in both numerator and denominator. You wouldn't say "the ship was moving at 32 miles divided by hours" because that's not really accurate. In other words, you'll divide a number of miles by a number of hours, but you aren't actually dividing the units themselves. Oct 20 '15 at 17:46

Invert the question/problem

4 into 5 goes 1.2 was the way I was brought up...

• This is why division tables are sometimes colloquially called "gazindas". "4 gazinda 12 three times, 4 gazinda 16 four times, ..." Feb 21 '11 at 15:10

I would use "5 by 4" in a generic setting like @Jasper mentioned. @Stan's point is valid, however in a matrix setting we're usually specific, like "A five by four matrix". From what I've seen/heard/experienced, "5 times 4" is the colloquial norm for multiplication and "5 by 4" is the colloquial norm for division.

• I don't think I'd interpret "by" as division unless there was a form of "divide" earlier in the sentence. The result of dividing 5 by 4 is... Feb 20 '11 at 17:21
• The problem with by is that it's also used for material dimensions sans units. It would depend on the context, of course, but it could cause unnecessary confusion. In a purely mathematical discussion, there would likely be no problem, but when discussing applied mathematics in engineering or design, it's hard to tell where the pure numbers end and the materials begin.
– bye
Feb 20 '11 at 17:25
• Unfortunately “by” is very ambiguous — I’ve heard it used by some people to mean multiplication, by others to mean division.
– PLL
Feb 20 '11 at 17:44
• This is a varieties-of-English thing. In India, "five by four" means "five divided by four", except in dimensions like "a nine-by-four room". Feb 20 '11 at 18:55
• This implies multiplication not division. Feb 20 '11 at 21:42