When to Spell Out Numbers

There are many types of ways to say a number but do you know when and where to use each of them? In this lesson, we will discover more about numbers.

When to Spell Out Numbers

When to Spell Out Numbers?

Some people have difficulty deciding whether to express numbers in words or figures. There are some general rules that we are going to discuss here. However, pay attention that not all these rules are applicable in all contexts.

Numbers 1-9

Small numbers (from one to nine) should be spelled out.

I have two dogs and three hamsters.

It is generally recommended to write cardinal numbers up to ten in words, except when telling the time.

We have ten guest coming over.

It's 10:00 PM.

Numbers Above Ten

Numbers above ten are usually written using numerals rather than words.

I was only 19.

I live in a small town 20 miles from the capital.

Starting Sentences with Numbers

When a number begins a sentence, spell it out in words, regardless of its value.

Eighteen bullets were fired. (Not 18 bullets were fired.)

However, when the number at the beginning of the sentence denotes a year, you can use numerals.

2007 was a wonderful year for me.

Tip!

Note that in headlines, you can begin a sentence with numbers.

5 Victims In The Latest Murder Case

Ordinal Numbers

Ordinal Numbers should be written in words, except when you are writing out dates.

I finished the match on the third place. (Not 'I finished the match on the 3rdplace.)

the first officer (Not the 1st officer)

She was born on July 4th. (Not 'she was born on July fourth.

Consecutive Numbers

Consecutive numbers can look slightly confusing to the reader. To avoid this confusion, always spell out one of the two numbers. For example:

I adopted five 6-month-old kitties. (Not '5 6-month-old kittens' or five six-month-old kittens')

Time And Date

You can use numerals to express time:

The train arrives at 6:22 a.m.

But, some people spell out the time and use o'clock.

I got up at six o'clock in the morning.

When expressing dates, use figures.

the 21th of May, 2009 or May 21, 2009

Decades can be expressed both in written forms and figures. When you want to write decades in figures, put an apostrophe before the incomplete numeral and no apostrophe between the number and the 's'.

During the '90s, rock & roll music flourished. (Not 90s or 90's)

You can also write out decades in complete numerals. But again, do not put an apostrophe between the year and the 's'.

During the 1990s, rock & roll music flourished. (Not 1990's)

Sums of Money

Sums of Money

When you are writing out sums of less than a dollar, you do not need to use a decimal point or a dollar sign.

I only had fifty cents. (Not ~~$0.50.)

When you use a dollar, euro, or pound symbol, do not add the word 'dollar, euro, or pound' after the number.

She has $2,360 dollars in her account.

When writing out a three or more digit number, it is not necessary to use the word 'and'. But, you can use 'and' to express decimal points accompanying these numbers.

six thousand three hundred thirty dollars

two thousand three hundred sixty-two dollars and forty-five cents

Tip!

Americans sometimes read numbers such as 1300, 1400, and 3100 as thirteen hundred, fourteen hundred, or thirty-one hundred. This is just to shorten the words and is not grammatically correct.

Technical and Scientific Texts

In technical writing, it is recommended to express numbers used with measurements of time or distance using figures rather than words.

2 years, 4 weeks, 6 meters, etc.

Normally, any number that expresses an important value must be written in figures. When the number is not very important it can be written in words.

The silicon trees are only 10 nanometers across and 100 nanometers high

Warning

Even in technical writing, do not begin sentences with numerals. Either write the number in words or rephrase the sentence so that the sentence does not start with a number.

Decimals and Fractions

Write out fractions and use hyphens and the word 'and' to separate the numbers.

We will have a 56 and three-quarters percent decrease in car sales. (Not 56 3/4)

Units of measurement should always be expressed as numerals.

The baby was only 3 lb 5 oz.

One foot is equal to 12 inches or about 30 centimeters.

To read the decimal numbers, after the decimal point, we should read out numbers digit by digit, not as a compound number.

1.25

One point two five

0.52

zero point five two

1.023

one point zero two three

12.025

twelve point zero two five

Remember that in English, a decimal point is used for decimal numbers and a comma is used to separate thousand:

12.236

twelve point two three six

12,236

twelve thousand and two hundred thirty six

Tip

Informally, the capital letter K is sometimes used to express one thousand. There is no space between the numeral and the letter K.

I've just reached 10K on my Instagram!

Roman Numerals

Roman numerals originated in ancient Rome and are still used for writing numbers. Numbers in this system are expressed by combinations of letters from the Latin alphabet.

Tip!

We use Roman numerals to distinguish between kings and queens who have the same name as a predecessor.

Henry VIII

Louis XIV

How To Write Numbers With Roman Numerals?

All the numbers in the Roman numeral system are made from only seven symbols. With these seven symbols, you can write every number you want.

Symbol Meaning
I 1
V 5
X 10
L 50
C 100
D 500
M 1000

Different arrangements of these seven symbols represent different numbers. For example:

We can put the symbols in descending order from left to right and add numbers together. If we add all of the numbers' values together, we get the represented number. For example:

XXVI is 10 + 10 + 5 + 1 = 26

XXXIII is 10 + 10 + 10 + 1 + 1 + 1 = 33

We can also put the symbol with a smaller value on the left side of the one with a larger value and subtract the value of the smaller symbol from that of the larger symbol to get the total value. For example:

IV is 5 – 1 = 4

IX is 10 - 1 = 9

Take a look at the table below to see more examples:

Number Roman Letter
1 I
2 II
3 III
4 IV
5 V
6 VI
7 VII
8 VIII
9 IX
10 X
20 XX
30 XXX
40 XL
50 L
60 LX
70 LXX
80 LXXX
90 XC
100 C
200 CC
300 CCC
400 CD
500 D
600 DC
700 DCC
800 DCCC
900 CM
1000 M
5000
10000

Phone Numbers

In English, to tell a phone number, we need to say every number individually. Let's see an example:

675 - 391 - 782 → six, seven, five - three, nine, one - seven, eight, two

we say each number individually.

If there is a 'zero' in the phone number, it is more commonly expressed as 'oh' instead of 'zero'.

670 - 391 - 782 → six, seven,oh - three, nine, one - seven, eight, two

If there are two numbers repeated in the phone number, we can say "doube+number". And if the number is repeated three times we can say "triple+number".

675 - 399 - 782 → six, seven, five - three, double nine - seven, eight, two

double

675 - 999 - 782 → six, seven, five - triple nine - seven, eight, two

triple

Two and More Digit Numbers in Addresses

To say the number of apartments (this can be an apartment number, villa number, hotel room number, house number, or even a street with more than two digits number), first we need to look at the last two digits. When the number has only two digits, we say the number like the following examples:

Apartment #25 → number twenty five

Room #36 → number thirty six

If the number has three digits, we can either say each digit individually or say the first digit alone and the last two digits in pair; the second way is more common:

Room #136 → number one, thirty six

common way

Room #136 → number one three six

If the number has four digits, we read them in pairs, we can also say them digit by digit.

Apartment #1215 → number tweleve fifteen

more common

Apartment #1215→ number one two one five

In case there are zeros in the number, the rules change. If the last two digits are zeros, we cannot say them separately. Therefore, we will do as the examples:

house #1500 → number fifteen hundred

If the three-digit number has zero in the middle, we need to say the numbers digit by digit, and we pronounce the zero as 'oh'.

building #502 → number five oh two

If in a four digit-number, the second to the end number is zero, we say it as the following:

room #1405 → number fourteen oh five

Room #3007 → number thirty oh seven

Tip!

The same rules apply to the numbers of transportation vehicles, such as bus number, taxi number, subway number, train number, flight number, etc. Here are some examples:

Bus #213 → two thirteen , or two one three

Taxi #105 → one oh five

Subway #1545 → fifteen forty five or one five four five

Flight number → BA2491twenty four ninty one

we say the two letters and then the numbers.

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