Names of numbers above 1000 in English

by Jakub Marian

Tip: See my list of the Most Common Mistakes in English. It will teach you how to avoid mis­takes with com­mas, pre­pos­i­tions, ir­reg­u­lar verbs, and much more (PDF Version).

First, we should note that there is a certain oddity in modern English in the nomenclature for numbers like “one thousand million”, “one million million” etc. The modern English pattern differs from most of Europe (as well as from its earlier usage in English):

NumberContinental EuropeModern English
106MillionMillion
109MilliardBillion
1012BillionTrillion
1015BilliardQuadrillion

As you can see, the Continental European convention is to alternate between -ion and -iard, whereas the modern English convention uses just the -ion suffix.

Another important difference in comparison to other European languages is that the words “hundred”, “thousand”, “million”, etc. are never used in the plural when pronouncing a number, for example:

seven thousand three hundred (and) fifty two (7,352)
two million one hundred thousand (2,100,000)

not

seven thousands three hundreds (and) fifty two (7,352)
two millions one hundred thousands (2,100,000)

We only use the plural (“hundreds, thousands, millions”) when referring to an unspecified number of objects of the given order of magnitude. Compare:

Millions of locusts swarmed over the city.
Thirty million locusts swarmed over the city.

As to whether to use “and” between “hundred” and the rest of the number, both “two hundred and fifty” and “two hundred fifty” are correct. The variant with “and” is more common in British English whereas the variant without “and” is more common in American English.

Also note that, when speaking about the number of objects or people, we usually say “a hundred/thousand/million”, rather than “one hundred/thousand/million”.

This article was based on my guide to the most common mistakes in English, which explains many similar topics. Why don’t you check it out?

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