I am a Finnish speaker and in Finnish it is very common to speak out loud a date, say 7.9 or 13.2 or so, as (translating directly) seventh of ninth or thirteenth of second and so on. This assumes the day/month order.

I have never seen this type of reading for dates but I know I have always had troubles mentally calculating what the name of some given month is, usually having to iterate through the list of months. Is saying something like "twenty-sixth of eighth" ever fine in English?

  • When you learn a new language, you have to learn to say things the way they do, not just calque things from your own. That's also why when talking to Americans, you should use American not European measurements. You have to learn to think like they do. It's of course perfectly fine that your country has different habits and styles, but... When in Rome, do as the Romans. :)
    – tchrist
    Commented Sep 7, 2018 at 23:42
  • What would be confusing is saying day/month rather than month/day, without any textual clues that the order is reversed from ordinary American English usage.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Sep 8, 2018 at 1:25

3 Answers 3


In my experience as a native speaker of American English, the date is sometimes spoken as all numbers, particularly when reading a date written that way. However, it's in the format "two thirteen", where the first number is the month and the second number is the day. In addition, sometimes a third number (the year) is included, either by saying the entire thing ("two thousand and five") or the last two digits (e.g. "oh five"). And sometimes "dash" is said as a separator, since it's pretty common to see dates written as "9-21-18".

Due to the nature of search engines, it's a little hard to find evidence online to back this up. I was however able to find a few examples (although they are mostly written):

Some special dates are likely to be referred to in this fashion. The example that comes right to mind is 9/11, which is almost always referred to as "nine eleven". And then there's "eleven eleven", which the one year was "eleven eleven eleven". And, as 1006a mentions in a comment, Pi Day is called "three fourteen". Depending on who you talk to, there's also four twenty. However, the Fourth of July isn't called "seven four".

There's another similar way to describe a date using numbers, but it's only used in "poetic" contexts. The examples I know of for this are:

  • "The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month" is when the Armistice of Compiègne was signed.
  • Various Bible translations have "the eleventh month of the twelfth year, on the first day of the month" in Ezekiel 26:1, but this is a different calendar (the New Living Translation has it as "February 3"). It's used in some other places in the Bible too.
  • Don't forget "three one four", aka March 14, aka Pi Day! By far the most common setting where I say and hear dates said as numbers is medical—doctors and hospitals always ask for birthdate as identifier, and it's usually said as a string of numbers (e.g. one one nineteen-ninety for someone born on January 1, 1990). In any other regular conversation I think it would be a bit odd.
    – 1006a
    Commented Sep 8, 2018 at 4:00

Speakers of American English will not understand what you are saying until you explain it to them. There's nothing wrong with it grammatically or style-wise (in fact I quite like it), but this isn't a usage that exists.

I would be surprised if it existed in British English, as I would think I would have heard it by now, but you'll have to check with a Brit for that.

  • 2
    In that case why do Americans talk of 9.11 (nine eleven)? In Britain it works differently as we write the date the European way, and might say, for example: the 14th of the 5th meaning the 14th May.
    – WS2
    Commented Sep 7, 2018 at 21:55
  • 1
    @WS2 Probably because we've seen it written out (usually 9/11 or 9-11) so many times. Commented Sep 7, 2018 at 22:26
  • Nobody will know what you mean if you say 25 of 12 instead of December 25th for Christmas.
    – tchrist
    Commented Sep 7, 2018 at 23:41
  • 1
    @WS2 As the accepted answer above mine explains, Americans sometimes speak the date as numbers, but it's with the month first and the day second, per the American style of slashing dates as month/day/year. Also, for, say, May 14th, we wouldn't ever say "The fifth of the fourteenth," we'd just say "five fourteen". If you told an American "My birthday's on the seventeenth of the twelfth," she'd probably be able to work out what date you mean, but the point is she would have to work it out -- it wouldn't come intuitively because it's not an American usage. Commented Sep 10, 2018 at 19:07

Much the same comments apply in UK English with one important difference: we always use the order day/month/year. This can result in very serious confusion between Americans and British. 2/12 (read as "two-twelve") would mean 2 December here but 12 February in the US. You are strongly advised to use the name of the month to avoid risk of confusion.

Note that, at least in the UK, we may write 2 December or December 2, but we always say "December the second" or "the second of December".

One important exception is 9/11 which is always called "9/11" since (1) it happened in America, and (2) the name relates to the American emergency number, 911.

  • "Much the same comments apply in UK English" - when referencing the other answers, it would be better to summarize them so that your answer isn't reliant on reading the other answers first. (If you're not referring to the other answers here, you should make this clearer.)
    – V2Blast
    Commented Sep 8, 2018 at 2:47
  • You do sometimes hear British people referring to Armistice Day as "eleven-eleven" though whether we picked this up from US usage I'm not sure. The only other date I regularly hear spoken of like that is seven-seven being the date of the 2005 London Transport bombings: in the latter case I suspect that the usage is an echo of the 9-11 designation. It also seems significant to me that both of these dates are repeated numbers so don't have the ambiguity of day and month which US usage introduces. If I didn't know I'd think 9-11 was the 9th of November.
    – BoldBen
    Commented Sep 8, 2018 at 13:54
  • I totally agree with all of that. But i think it is only since 9/11 that we have used precise dates as names for events or anything else. (I say "precise" because years are different. If I say "1066" it is obvious what period of history we a talking about and the meaning is fairly obvious in that context. "9/11" is different. It is cryptic - you just have to know what it refers to . It would be much more useful if we referred to it as "2001" as this locates it in history. There are probably lots of people who don't even know what decade it happened in!) Commented Sep 8, 2018 at 22:52
  • But this is not the case in some non-English-speaking countries. Go to Portugal. Go over the Ponte 25 de Abril ( upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/ad/… ). Everyone knows the name of this bridge. Everyone knows the date of the revolution - 25/4/78. I once went into a housing estate there. Down 1 May Street, turn right in 4 September Road. All the streets were dates. I had no idea what they referred to in what century, and I doubt many of the locals did either. Commented Sep 8, 2018 at 23:01

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