Expressing Dates

Telling the date is one of the most common subjects in our daily life. In this lesson, we will learn how to express the date of something.

Expressing Dates in English Language

How Do We Express Dates?

Expressing dates is the act of representing a specific day on the calendar using a combination of the month, day, and year. Dates are important for a wide range of practical purposes, such as scheduling appointments, making travel arrangements, and organizing events.

How to Write Dates: American English Vs. British English

There are different ways to express dates in English, and they are different in British English and American English. Let's have a look at some common ways:

American english British English
September the twenty fifth, 2022 The twenty fifth of September 2022
September 25ᵗʰ, 2022 25ᵗʰ September 2022
September 25th, 2022 25 September 2022
9/25/2022 25/9/2022
9/25/22 25/9/22
09/25/22 25/09/22

We can express dates in numbers, with words, or using a mixture of both.

Contracted Forms of Months

When writing dates, you can also use the contracted forms of the months. You can learn all of them on the list:

Name abbreviations
1 January Jan
2 February Feb
3 March Mar
4 April Apr
5 May May
6 June Jun
7 July Jul
8 August Aug
9 September Sep
10 October Oct
11 November Nov
12 December Dec

Here are a few examples:

6 Sept 2014

15 Mar 1889

Days of the month

Let's see the days of the month:

Dyas of the month
1st first
2nd second
3rd third
4th fourth
5th fifth
6th sixth
7th seventh
8th eighth
9th ninth
10th tenth
11th eleventh
12th twelfth
13th thirteenth
14th fourteenth
15th fifteenth
16th sixteenth
17th seventeenth
18th eighteenth
19th nineteenth
20th twentieth
21st twenty-first
22nd twenty-second
23rd twenty-third
24th twenty-fourth
25th twenty-fifth
26th twenty-sixth
27th twenty-seventh
28th twenty-eighth
29th twenty-ninth
30th thirtieth
31st thirty-first

How to Read the Dates?

There are three common ways to tell the date. Compare these three sentences:

It is the third of July.

It is July third.

It is July the third.

How to write the Dates?

There are different ways of writing dates, depending on the variety of English we are using, the level of politeness, formality or informality of the context, and even personal preference.
We have mentioned some ways of expressing dates, the longer ways are used in more formal writings, they are more polite:

The Fifteenth of November, 2020

November The Fifteenth, 2020

The shorter versions are usually used for letters between friends, informal business letters, memos, etc.

September 25th, 2022

25/9/2022

writing the century

Let's go through some of the differences between American and British English:

  • Format

The structure of dates in American English is Month/Day/Year. In British English, the structure is Day/Month/Year.
In both styles, the days and years are written numerally and the month is spelled out, here you can see some examples:

She finished her project on March 24, 2020.

American English

She finished her project on 24 March, 2020.

British English

  • Ordinals

Since we usually use the ordinal numbers in speech, we consider them unnecessary in American English formal writings:

❌ The day he started to live again, it was November 1st, 2021.

✔The day he started to live again, it was November 1, 2021.

In British English, ordinals are used in dates, but not in formal writings:

On 21st March, 2019, the first step of the big project was taken.

Informal

On 21 March, 2019, the first step of the big project was taken.

  • Punctuation

In American English, we use commas to separate the day from the year.

July 20, 2021

In British English, commas are mostly considered unnecessary and therefore are omitted in formal writings:

20 July 2021

In both American and British English, when only the month and the year are mentioned, it's better not to use commas.

❌It happened in November, 2018.

✔It happened in November 2018.

When we fully write dates using numbers, we can use a hyphen (-), a dot (.), or a slash (/) to separate them.

15/07/2020

08.01.2021

10-02-2019

Century and Decade

Century

Century is s period of 100 years. For example, the period from the beginning of 1700 until the end of 1799 is called a century. There are two common ways to refer to a century: the first is to simply mention the period, such as the 1700s, while the second is to refer to it as the eighteenth century or 18th century. It is important to note that although these two ways of referring to the century may seem different, they are actually referring to the same period of time.

The Royal Palace was built in the 1600s.

1600s should not be confused with the decade.

The artwork from the nineteenth century is so beautiful.

This painting belongs to the 18th century.

It is important to note that the number in the name of a century is always one higher than the number of the year that starts the century. For example, we are now in the 21st century, but the years start with the number 20 (2000-2099), same goes for the 18th century which began with the year 1700, so its years start with the number 17 (1700-1799).

How to Write Centuries?

There are some recommended ways to write centuries, one is to use all lowercase words, for instance: the seventeenth century. We could also use ordinal numbers, such as the fifth century or 17th century. Centuries are only capitalized if they start a sentence or form part of a title.

Using a Hyphen

We can use a hyphen if an ordinal number and the word 'century' are used as a noun, in this case, they form a compound adjective which needs a hyphen:

Dadaism was a 20th-century art movement of the European avant-garde.

Decade

Decades are a duration of 10 years. We can write them in different ways. However, it is better to use numerals for decades, using all four digits + 's' and no apostrophe.

Some of the best songs were released during the 1970s.

The 1980s fashion was remarkable.

Writing the first decade of the century can be confusing since there is no way you can tell 1800s is referring to the century or the decade; therefore, it's better to rewrite the sentence:

During the first decade of the 19th century, it was indeed not easy to be a woman.

What are BC, AD, BCE, and CE?

Let's have a look at the following table:

BC is the abbreviation for 'before christ'
AD stands for the Latin phrase: Anno Domin meaning the year of our lord
BCE is the abbreviation for 'before the common era'
CE is the abbreviation for 'common era'
  • BC and AD

BC and AD are initials referring to years in Georgian calendars. BC is used to refer to the years before birth of Jesus Christ, and AD refers to the years after birth of Jesus Christ.

1200 BC or 1200 B.C.

It can be written with and without periods.

AD 1060 or A.D. 1060

  • BCE and CE

Some people use BCE or CE instead of BC and AD for religious neutrality. This will express the same period, just with religious neutrality.

Tip!

BC, BCE, and CE always are placed after the date but AD always comes before the date.

200 B.C. , 200 B.C.E. , 200 C.E.

Can be written with and without periods.

A.D. 200

What Is 'ISO'

Since the different styles of expressing dates can be confusing and sometimes can result in very expensive mistakes, ISO is used to prevent problems. 'ISO' is an internationally agreed way to express dates, this is the standard way to show dates on important situations like purchasing airplane tickets, business letters, contracts, and so on.
The structure is YYYY-MM-DD
For instance: 23 September 2019 will be shown as 2019-09-23.

Prepositions

If the date refers to the day of an event, we use the preposition on to refer to the date. Here are a few examples:

My birthday is on July the second.

Her wedding is on January ninth

The proposition used when referring to the year is in, but remember, in this case, you are not allowed to use the day. For example:

She was killed in 1999.

I was born in 1997.

When you are referring to the month as an approximate date, you should use the preposition 'in'. Check out the examples:

I think it was in December.

I saw her in March.

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