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Capítulo 9:

 Dealing with numbers. Usar los números en inglés

“Once is happenstance; twice is coincidence; three times is enemy action”

by Ian Fleming

LEAD-IN Thinking...

How would you say the following numbers?


  • €121/2bn
  •   €580,753
  •   4:1
  •   1.05km2
  •   0.0012%
  •   2/3
  •   €8,491
  •   298m3
  •   €52-58m
  •   400Gb


In this unit we are going to have an overview of numbers in English.

The main units of numbers in English are:

1             10          100                    1000            1000000             1000000000

one        ten         hundred              thousand        million               billion

Have a look at this list of numbers: on the left are the normal or "cardinal" numbers; on the right are the "ordinal" numbers, which we use to define the position of something in a series. Pay attention to the pronunciation of numbers (in red). A number not well pronounced can lead to fatal misunderstandings.



Text(1) In compound ordinal numbers, note that only the last figure is written as an ordinal number:

* 421st = four hundred and twenty-first

* 5,111th = five thousand, one hundred and eleventh



-  For numbers in the hundreds, the British usually say "and" but the Americans usually do not say anything:


-  In English, we usually separate the digits of numbers over 999 with a comma (,). We count 3 digits from the right and insert a comma, like this:

                             <             -             -             -             <             -             -             -

               1,000                 one thousand

               1,000,000           one million

               12,750,200         twelve million, seven hundred and fifty thousand, two hundred

-  We use a point (.) to indicate a decimal number, or to separate dollars from cents, pounds from pennies and so on.

               Here are some examples:

               0.1                        =             one tenth or 1/10

               1.0                        =             one

               1,000                   =             one thousand

               1,500.75              =             one thousand five hundred and three quarters

               $1.50                    =             one dollar and fifty cents

               $700.00               =             seven hundred dollars

               £3,500.01           =             three thousand five hundred pounds and one penny

Text Be careful with commas and points. Some languages use them in the opposite way!

-  We often say "a" instead of "one":

               For example when we have the numbers

               100        we say  "A hundred"

               1/2         we say  "A half".

               11/2      we say  "One and a half.

-  When pronouncing decimals we use the word point to represent the dot. The numbers following the dot are

pronounced separately:

               For example when you have the number

               1.36       we say  "One point three six."

-  Numbers are usually written in singular.

               *two hundred Euros

               *several thousand light years

-  The plural is only used with dozen, hundred, thousand, million, billion; as long as they are not modified by another number or expression (e.g. a few / several):

               *hundreds of Euros

               *thousands of light years

-  When expressed as figures, the last two letters of the written word are added to the ordinal number:

               first                                     = 1st

               second                               = 2nd

               third                                    = 3rd

               fourth                                 = 4th

               twenty-sixth                      = 26th

               hundred and first             = 101st

-  Titles: In names for kings and queens, ordinal numbers are written in Roman numbers. In spoken English, the

definite article is used before the ordinal number:

               Charles II             - Charles the Second

               Edward VI           - Edward the Sixth

               Henry VIII            - Henry the Eighth

-  In telephone numbers, each figure is said separately:

               24                         - two four

Pause after groups of 3 or 4 figures (last group):

               376 4705             - three seven six, four seven oh five

If two successive figures are the same, in British English you would usually use the word double (in American English you would just say the figure twice)

               376 4775             - BE: three seven six, four double seven five

               376 4775             - AE: three seven six, four seven seven five


Ordinal numbers are often used in fractions:

              Symbol                Word   

               1/8                       One eighth

               1/5                       One fifth            

               1/4                       One quarter       

               3/4                       Three quarters  

               1/3                       One third            

               2/3                       Two thirds         

               1/2                       One half             


               Symbols               Word (common term in brackets)            

               +                          Plus (And)                                         

               -                          Minus (Take away)                         

               x                          Multiplied by (Times)      

               ÷                          Divided by                                        

               =                          Equals (Is)                                         

               .                           Point                                                 

               %                         Percent                              

How do we read calculations out?

1 + 6 - 2 x 2 ÷ 2.5=4 [more formal]         

One plus six minus two multiplied by two divided by two point five equals four


1 + 6 - 2 x 2 ÷ 2.5=4 [more informal]

One and six take away two times two divided by two point five is four

10% 100=10      

Ten percent of one hundred equals ten.



What could possibly be interesting about nothing? It's the number of ways you can say 0 in English.

0 = oh                 after a decimal point                   9.02 = "Nine point oh two."

                             in bus or room numbers             Room 101 = "Room one oh one."

                                                                                        Bus 602 = "Bus six oh two."

                             in phone numbers                         9130472 = "Nine one three oh four seven two

                             in years                                           1906 = "Nineteen oh six."


0 = nought         before a decimal point                 0.06 = "Nought point oh six."


0 = zero (Zero AmE)        in temperature                              -10°C = "10 degrees below zero”

                                           in countdowns               ...3,2,1,0  = “three, two, one, zero”


0 = nil (BrE)         in football                         Chelsea 2 Manchester United 0 = "Chelsea two ManU nil."


0 = love             in tennis                            20 - 0 = "Twenty love."


In British English a billion traditionally is a trillion and it means: a million million =                              1,000,000,000,000 = 1012

In American English a billion means

a thousand million =                                     1,000,000,000 = 109

The American billion has become standard in technical and financial use. However, to avoid confusion it is better to use the terms "thousand million" for 109 and "million million" for 1012.

“Millardo" is the Spanish for the number 109 (mil millones). It is not used in American English but is sometimes, but rarely, used in British English (Milliard).



The letter k is often used to denote a thousand. So, 1k = 1,000.

If you see a job advertised and it offers a salary of £12k it means £12,000.00.


The letter m is often used to denote a million. So, 1m = 1,000,000.

If you see a job advertised and it offers a salary of £12m, apply for it!


The letters bn denote a billion.So, 1bn is usually 1,000,000,000.

If you see a job advertised and it offers a salary of £12bn, it's probably a misprint.

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