Grammar. 28.04.2016
Grammar Teacher


Автор: Grammar Teacher

All our lives we are surrounded by numbers. We count money we earn and spend, weight of our bags, years or months spent somewhere or with someone, hours and minutes of waiting, meters and kilometers of distance between places, etc. For all these measurements we need to use in our speech numerals. In this article we are going to discuss precisely them.

A numeral is a figure, a letter, a word (or their combinations) representing a number. They may be divided into two major types: cardinal and ordinal numerals. Cardinal numerals indicate number, quantity or amount and are used in counting. Ordinal numerals indicate order, that is, the order of things in a series. Numerals can be written in figures or words (2 or two; 25 or twenty-five; 17th or seventeenth). But in this article we’re going to discuss not only ordinal and cardinal numerals, but also fractions and other details connected with usage of numerals.

Cardinal numerals

In formal nontechnical texts, numbers from one to one hundred, round numbers, and any numbers that can be expressed in one or two words are usually spelled out, that is, written out in words.

In less formal texts, as a general rule, numbers from one to ten should be spelled out, and figures can be used for numbers above ten.
For example: She has got three brothers. 
                     How many feet are there in a mile? – There are 5280 feet in a mile.

Numbers at the beginning of the sentence should be written out in words. If you need to use figures, restructure your sentence.
For example: Fifty-six workers were fired yesterday. – Yesterday 56 workers were fired.
Numerals used in the same function in a sentence are usually written either as words or as figures.
For example: He wrote one hundred and thirty essays, fifty-two stories, and seven novels./ He wrote 130 essays, 52 stories, and 7 novels.
Here are symbols and words representing cardinal numbers:

Both in British English and in American English groups of three digits in numerals of one thousand and higher are usually separated by a comma, counting from the right: 4,286; 12,345; 378,925; 6,540,210.

Some manuals of style recommend writing four-digit numerals without a comma: 1570; 2358; 5625.
In numbers written as words in British English, the conjunction "and" is used before tens, or before ones if there are no tens, starting with hundreds: one hundred and twenty-three (123); four hundred and seven (407); three thousand five hundred and thirty-eight (3,538); seventy-three thousand and five (73,005); five million three hundred thousand and fifty (5,300,050).

Note the use of more than one conjunction "and" in large numbers in British English: two million six hundred and twenty-five thousand three hundred and ten (2,625,310).
In American English, the conjunction "and" is generally not used before tens or ones: one hundred twenty-three (123); four hundred seven (407); three thousand five hundred thirty-eight (3,538); seventy-three thousand five (73,005); two million six hundred twenty-five thousand three hundred ten (2,625,310); five million three hundred thousand fifty (5,300,050).

In British English, the conjunction "and" is also used before tens or ones in ordinal numerals above one hundred: one hundred and tenth (110th); three thousand and fifth (3005th). But "and" is not used in American ordinals: one hundred tenth (110th); three thousand fifth (3005th).


Ordinal numerals

Ordinal numerals that can be expressed in one or two words are usually written as words.
Generally, ordinal numerals are used as adjectives and stand before nouns. An ordinal numeral is usually preceded by the definite article "the".
For example: The first story was interesting. The second was dull.
                     John Kennedy was the 35th president of the United States.

Here are ordinal numbers in figures and in words:

Difficult spellings

Pay attention to the differences in the spelling and pronunciation of the following cardinal and ordinal numerals.

  • two, twelve, twenty, twenty-two – second, twelfth, twentieth, twenty-second;
  • three, thirteen, thirty, thirty-three – third, thirteenth, thirtieth, thirty-third;
  • four, fourteen, forty, forty-four – fourth, fourteenth, fortieth, forty-fourth;
  • five, fifteen, fifty, fifty-five – fifth, fifteenth, fiftieth, fifty-fifth;
  • eight, eighteen, eighty, eighty-eight – eighth, eighteenth, eightieth, eighty-eighth;
  • nine, nineteen, ninety, ninety-nine – ninth, nineteenth, ninetieth, ninety-ninth;

Note the pronunciation of "five, fifth" and "nine, ninth": five [faiv] – fifth [fifθ]; nine [nain] – ninth [nainθ].
Numerals like "eighteen" have two stresses: sixteen ['siks'ti:n]; eighteen ['ei'ti:n]. Depending on the position of the numeral in the sentence, primary stress may fall on the first or on the last syllable. 
For example: He has SIXteen BOOKS. How many? – SixTEEN.
Numerals like "eighty" have one stress on the first syllable: twenty ['twenti]; sixty ['siksti]; eighty ['eiti].
Note the pronunciation of ordinal numerals like "twentieth": twentieth ['twentiiθ]; fortieth ['fo:rtiiθ]; fiftieth ['fiftiiθ]; seventieth ['seventiiθ]; ninetieth ['naintiiθ]


A fraction is a number we need for measuring. When we measure something, such as a length, it will not always be a whole number. Therefore we need numbers that are less than 1, 2 or other figures – numbers that are the parts of these figures: half of one, a third/ a fourth/ a fifth/ a millionth part of some figure. For example:
 1/3    means 1 out of 3

The first number in fraction, written before slash (/), is called numerator and is expressed by a cardinal numeral. The second number, written after slash (/), is called denominator and is expressed by ordinal numeral. NOTE: you use ordinal numeral only in oral speech and in fractions written in words, you don’t have to write suffixes “rd, th, ths” in written figures. Therefore, you write 1/5, but you pronounce it and write it in words as one-fifth.

Pay attention that when you write fractions with words, not symbols, you also need to use hyphen (-). For example: 1/7 will be one-seventh. But, when the numerator or denominator is already hyphenated you don’t need to use one more hyphen. For example: 1/25 will be one twenty-fifth, NOT one-twenty-fifth. Here are more examples of fractions, represented by symbols and words:

  • 1/2 – one-half / a half; 1/3 – one-third;
  • 1/4 – one-fourth / a quarter;
  • 1/5 – one-fifth; 1/8 – one-eighth;
  • 1/9 – one-ninth; 1/10 – one-tenth;
  • 1/12 – one-twelfth; 1/20 – one twentieth;
  • 1/32 – one thirty-second;
  • 1/100 – one-hundredth;
  • 1/1000 – one-thousandth;
  • 2/3 – two-thirds; 4/5 – four-fifths;
  • 3/4 – three-fourths / three-quarters;
  • 5/8 – five-eighths; 9/10 – nine-tenths;
  • 7/36 – seven thirty-sixths;
  • 33/100 – thirty-three hundredths;
  • 65/1000 – sixty-five thousandths;
  • 1 1/2 – one and a half;
  • 1 1/4 – one and a quarter;
  • 3 2/5 – three and two-fifths;
  • 6 3/7 – six and three-sevenths.

He has already written three-quarters of his new novel.
A cent is one hundredth part of a dollar.
This box weighs two-thirds of a kilogram.

Decimal fractions

The decimal point (not a comma) separates the whole from the fraction in decimal fractions in English. Decimals are written in figures. 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." 

The digits to the left of the decimal point are usually read as a cardinal number, and the digits to the right of the decimal point are usually read as separate digits. 
For example, 546.132 can be read as "five hundred forty-six point one-three-two".


Squared/ Cubed/ To the power of

Square numbers are written 2² = we say "Two squared" = 2 x 2 = Two squared equals four. 
Cubed numbers are written 2³ = We say "Two cubed" = 2 x 2 x 2 = Two cubed equals eight 
You can also say "to the power of" - "Two to the power of two equals four." and "Two to the power of three equals eight." 
You can then have "to the power of" any number. 
Two to the power of twelve = 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 = 4096. 
It's much easier to write 2¹² = 4096. 


Interesting numbers
~ 0 ~

There are a number of ways you can say 0 in English. 

~ 12 ~

The number 12 is often represented as a dozen and the number 6 as a half dozen. 

For example
12 eggs= "A dozen eggs." 
6 eggs = "Half a dozen eggs." 

~ 13 ~

A dozen is 12, but a baker's dozen is 13, because in the past bakers who were caught shortchanging customers could be liable to severe punishment, so they used to add an extra bread roll to make up the weight.

~ 100 ~

A century is 100. The roman numeral for 100 is C, for centum. 
One hundred is the basis of percentages (literally "per hundred"). 100% is the full amount of something. 

*~ 1 billion ~

When is a billion not a billion? 
In British English billion traditionally means a million million = 1,000,000,000,000 = 1012 
In American English 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. 
Milliard is French for the number 109. It is not used in American English but is sometimes, but rarely, used in British English. 


Letters as numbers
~ k ~

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. 

~ m ~

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! 

~ bn ~

The letters bn denote a billion. So, 1bn is usually 1,000,000,000 (see above).
 If you see a job advertised and it offers a salary of £12bn, it's probably a missprint. 


The word myriad used to mean 10,000. Nowadays it's used to refer to a countless number or multitude of specified things. 

For example: 
Earth hosts a myriad of animals. 



For example: (((1 + 6) - 2) x 2) ÷ 2.5=4: a) One plus six minus two multiplied by two divided by two point five equals four; b) 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.

To sum up, next time you talk about math in English, about the maximum speed of your new car, about the weight of that new colleague of yours, or about a part of cake eaten by your friend, you will know which numeral to use, how to spell it and which symbols to use.
If you want to practice all that you’ve read about, follow these links, where you will find different exercises:

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