Number words in English

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AuthorTopic: Number words in English
Law Bringer
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Need a bit of help with writing out numbers. Or rather, I need to confirm some assumptions I'm making while correcting someone's use of English, meaning that not only do I run the risk of using something wrongly, but I also run the risk of claiming something to be wrong where no rule actually exists.

1. English being non-agglutinative, it follows that while "one hundred" is correct, "onehundred" is not. Right?

2. "One hundred and one". Is the "and" essential? I've seen "one hundred one" and "one hundred and one" being used equally often, but I'm more used to seeing the latter. Are there any circumstances under which the "and" is actually incorrect - say, "one thousand and two hundred"?

3. Can "hundred" (and other such words) be used without an indefinite article ("a hundred") or a number word ("one hundred")? Under what circumstances can the indefinite article be used - can you say "a thousand two hundred", or is it "one thousand two hundred"?

One thousand five hundred sixty-two thanks! :)

[ Tuesday, November 22, 2005 08:30: Message edited by: NaNoWriMo ]

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1. Right.

2. The and is not only not essential, but also wrong. On the other side of the coin, you won't sound stupid for using it since many people do.

3. Nope. A hundred has to be written as either a hundred or one hundred.

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Posts: 6936 | Registered: Tuesday, September 18 2001 07:00
Warrior
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Why is it wrong to say 'one hundred and one'? Or where did you learn this? To me it sounds like American English to say it without the and. Or if not American it sounds a bit funny... I would always say it with the and, and I think people around me do too.

(Of course, we could all be wrong. But if something is used enough in a language, doesn't it eventually become 'correct'?)

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quote:
Originally written by Thin Air:

(But if something is used enough in a language, doesn't it eventually become 'correct'?)
Nope. Two wrongs do not make a right (is that how it goes?). For example, if you ask someone in spanish:
Que hora es? (what time is it?)
99% of the time they'll answer:
Son las una y media, or some other time, which is wrong. You'd have to say: Es la una y media which will agree with the question. Although everyone says it wrong, it is still wrong, and if marked on a test as a question (at least in Dom. Rep.) it'll be marked wrong.
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Yes but who decides what is wrong? I know there are language boards and so on in some countries which come up with lots of rules, and there are also grammar books, but grammar books seem to record the language as it is, not dictate how it should be (at least they ought to). Not all grammar does make logical sense; English is proof enough of that. In fact the most commonly used words and expressions in most languages tend to be the ones that change the most over time, and so vary from what was once 'correct' (eg the fact that the verb 'to be' is irregular in many languages, since it is used more than any other verb).

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Posts: 147 | Registered: Tuesday, October 18 2005 07:00
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I believe Thin Air is referring to a larger time scale of, say, a few centuries give or take. Since languages evolve pretty much at random, and this process has only been slowed, but not halted, by the invention of printing, "thou wouldst" probably see a lot of differences in the English of several centuries ago as opposed to now. :P

--

The only time I learned English according to precise rules was in sixth grade, and that was British English. Since then, I've learnt it mostly by using/reading it, especially on the internet, which is known for its high population of illiterates. And other people who've learnt English the same way as I have, and write accordingly. :P

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It does eventually become correct, but the average time for that to happen is somewhere between five hundred and one thousand years.

He's right: "one hundred one" is technically the correct way to say "101." Check any grammar book.

Something being "correct" partly comes from how a language actually was spoken at the time when the language was standardized (which was some time ago, for English — how we actually speak now has nothing to do with it) and partly from what grammarians think makes sense. "It is I" is grammatically correct because grammarians liked it in relation to Latin, even though they could just as well have chosen "It is me" based on analogy with a Slavic language instead.

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Wiktionary claims that the and correct in British English and incorrect in American English, but I can't find any other reference.

Also note that milliard, which I believe is used in German, is or was also used in British English in place of a million, which means that a billion could have two different meanings. That's rather confusing.

—Alorael, who has been led to believe that it is conventional to write out numbers up to ten or up to twenty, depending on who's doing the recommending, and that larger numbers should be written as digits. That would make it correct to write 101.
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Good :) , as it still sounds American not to use the and. I was also thinking of 'A Hundred and One Dalmatians'... not that it must be right just because the book is called that, but I've never heard any complaints about it.

Generally, in Europe (so in other languages than English too), a milliard is 1000 x 1,000,000
and a billion is 1,000,000 x 1,000,000.

[ Tuesday, November 22, 2005 10:18: Message edited by: Thin Air ]

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I've never heard or read "milliard" in English, but the British convention is that a billion is a million million. The American billion is just a thousand million in British parlance. Hence there are no British billionaires. The difference in the meaning of billion is so great that actually it is generally easy to figure out which one is meant, once you realize that there are two possible conventions. Except in astronomy, where factors of 1000 are not so hard to miss.

And the "and" thing -- this is silly. Especially on such a meaningless convention, common usage is the only genuine authority. Both are used. One definitely does not use the "and" with numbers below 100, except for the rhetorical effect of archaism. ("Four score and seven years ago"; abandoning the "ninety and nine" sheep to search for the one lost one; "when I was one and twenty"; "four and twenty blackbirds"-- and the latter two have the Germanic ordering as well.) So it might seem logical to continue the pattern with hundreds and thousands. But no English speaker refers to the "thousand one nights of Scheherezade"; they number a thousand and one. The seventy-six trombones were to be followed by a hundred and ten cornets, in the American musical. Disney animated the hundred and one Dalmatians. And so on. Omitting the "and" is possible, but sounds odd unless the word thus spoken is used in a technical context. A car might have one hundred seventy-five horsepower; but it might also have a hundred and seventy-five.

Curiously, I think one could definitely say "one thousand and sixty", but not "one thousand and two hundred". The and seems to be included after hundreds and higher, but only if followed by something under a hundred.

[ Tuesday, November 22, 2005 11:15: Message edited by: Student of Trinity ]

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Wasn't the Hubble telescope built with a design error because of the billion/million thing? Or was it a conversion error from centimeters to inches?

quote:
Originally written by Eimp:

Wiktionary claims that the and correct in British English and incorrect in American English, but I can't find any other reference.

Also note that milliard, which I believe is used in German, is or was also used in British English in place of a million, which means that a billion could have two different meanings. That's rather confusing.

—Alorael, who has been led to believe that it is conventional to write out numbers up to ten or up to twenty, depending on who's doing the recommending, and that larger numbers should be written as digits. That would make it correct to write 101.

Milliard in place of a million? Here it's used for a thousand millions, or a billion. Apparently, you really are better off with arabic numerals at that point.

Unfortunately, the idea was to program a Java function that takes any number up to 9999 and write it out in words, in German and English. A homework assigned to the first year students in the Java course.

Don't ask why it's such a senseless thing, I don't assign the homework, I just help correct it. You don't really know pain and confusion until you have tried to make sense of a beginner's coding efforts. >_<

Thus, pause in wonder at this masterpiece - simplified, it was a bit more complex, but roughly similar in concept:

for (int i=0; i<5; i++) {
if (i==0) {
dostuff(0);
}
if (i==1) {
dostuff(1);
}
if (i==2) {
dostuff(2);
}
if (i==3) {
dostuff(3);
}
if (i==4) {
dostuff(4);
}
}


[ Tuesday, November 22, 2005 11:54: Message edited by: NaNoWriMo ]

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Wow. Brings new meaning to "aggressively pointless". I'm assuming that the author had just discovered for-loops and decided that they were cool and ought to be used whenever possible.

[ Tuesday, November 22, 2005 12:13: Message edited by: Thuryl ]

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Yes, apparently so.

Ironically, the for loop is perfectly suited for this situation. It's the five if-clauses instead of the single "dostuff(i)" that make the whole thing so ridiculous.

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ah yet another topic that confuses me..dont we go to school to learn about language and all that?

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Posts: 462 | Registered: Tuesday, June 21 2005 07:00
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quote:
Originally written by NaNoWriMo:

Need a bit of help with writing out numbers. Or rather, I need to confirm some assumptions I'm making while correcting someone's use of English, meaning that not only do I run the risk of using something wrongly, but I also run the risk of claiming something to be wrong where no rule actually exists.

1. English being non-agglutinative, it follows that while "one hundred" is correct, "onehundred" is not. Right?
You are correct, although partly: 'one hundred' is correct, 'twenty three' is not, 'twenty-three' is correct, 'one-hundred' is not. We are tricky that way.
quote:

2. "One hundred and one". Is the "and" essential? I've seen "one hundred one" and "one hundred and one" being used equally often, but I'm more used to seeing the latter. Are there any circumstances under which the "and" is actually incorrect - say, "one thousand and two hundred"?
In some English dialects, you pronounce '101' 'one hundred and one'. In the past, '99' would have been 'nine and ninety' or 'ninety and nine', but it's not any more (ninety-nine). But written, 'one hundred and one' is incorrect. The 'and' does NOT come in until you start adding fractions: the proper form is 'one hundred one'. If you've got a half to add, it is 'one hundred one and one half'.

Bear in mind that if you are quoting someone, 'one hundred and one' (or 'a hundred and one', really - hundred, thousand, million etc. are stand-alone nouns in English) will seem more natural. But if you're describing something or doing this for a class, 'one hundred one' is how you will want to do this.
quote:

3. Can "hundred" (and other such words) be used without an indefinite article ("a hundred") or a number word ("one hundred")? Under what circumstances can the indefinite article be used - can you say "a thousand two hundred", or is it "one thousand two hundred"?
Ask anyone how to pronounce '101 Dalmatians', and you will hear 'a hundred and one dalmatians' pretty frequently. However, for some odd reason, this only works in select circumstances: 'one thousand two hundred' feels more natural to me, 'a thousand one' feels more natural than 'one thousand one'; and personally I prefer 'a hundred twenty' over 'one hundred twenty', but 'a million twenty' or 'a million one' feels weird.

Maybe it's just the small numbers, I dunno. 'Hundred' is, after all, a relatively recent invention (a couple centuries ago and we would be talking about scores), which makes its usage less consistent.
Also, you can never generally use a noun without an article or at least some kind of helping word, unless it's plural. ('Hundreds died' is appropriate, 'Hundred curses on your line' is not; same goes with 'thousand[s]' and 'million[s]', and so on up the line. On some rare occasions, it can be incorporated into an adjective and thus have the need for the helping word obviated: the million-man army, the dozen-ton weight, etc. (But in that case, the 'the' is only just sufficing for one noun instead of two.)
quote:

One thousand five hundred sixty-two thanks! :)


[ Tuesday, November 22, 2005 16:36: Message edited by: Belisarius ]
Posts: 794 | Registered: Tuesday, October 11 2005 07:00
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int main()
{
int n;
cout<<"Enter number: ";
cin>>n;
cout<<"\n\n";
if(n>=1000)
{
cout<<n-(n%1000)." thousand, ";
n=n-(n-(n%1000));
}
if(n>=100)
{
cout<<n-(n%100)." hundred ";
n=n-(n-(n&100));
}
}
Hmmm, I see where that could get potentially more complicated than you'd think.

(In response to Aran)

[ Tuesday, November 22, 2005 18:37: Message edited by: ben ben ]

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quote:
Originally written by Eimp:

Wiktionary claims that the and correct in British English and incorrect in American English, but I can't find any other reference.

I can certainly say that Australians do not refer to the year two thousand five - it is two thousand and five. Similarly, we say a car has a hundred and twenty killowatts of power not the American one hundred twenty horsepower (or 160 hp if you prefer :) ).

What sounds wrong to everyone's ears is undoubtedly based on where they grew up (or learnt English). The American way sounds wrong to me. What is correct will depend on the audience.
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Yes, but only piss-weak cars have 120 killowatts. :P

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quote:
Originally written by ben ben:

int main()
{
int n;
cout<<"Enter number: ";
cin>>n;
cout<<"\n\n";
if(n>=1000)
{
cout<<n-(n%1000)." thousand, ";
n=n-(n-(n%1000));
}
if(n>=100)
{
cout<<n-(n%100)." hundred ";
n=n-(n-(n&100));
}
}
Hmmm, I see where that could get potentially more complicated than you'd think.

(In response to Aran)

Aside from the fact that I don't recognize the language (C?), if that is meant to write out the numbers, it gets a LOT more complicated. Here's one of the programs - in Java:

Note that while I changed it somewhat to make it return the correct values (and translated the variable names to English), at heart it is code I not only didn't write, but wouldn't want to be caught dead writing. Especially not without comments.

public void writeNumber(String s){
if(s.length()<=4){
int number = 0;
try{
String erg = "";
number = Integer.parseInt(s);
int[] digits = new int[5];
digits[0]=number/1000;
digits[1]=(number%1000)/100;
digits[2]=number%100;
digits[3]=(number%100)/10;
digits[4]=number%10;
String[] words = {" thousand "," hundred ","","ty","","-"};
if (digits[4]==0) words[5]="";
else words[3]= "ty-";
for(int i=0;i<5;i++){
boolean wasFound = false;
if(i==2){
switch(digits[2]){
case 10: erg+="ten";wasFound=true;break;
case 11: erg+="eleven"; wasFound=true;break;
case 12: erg+="twelve"; wasFound=true;break;
case 13: erg+="thirteen"; wasFound=true;break;
case 14: erg+="fourteen"; wasFound=true;break;
case 15: erg+="fifteen"; wasFound=true;break;
case 16: erg+="sixteen"; wasFound=true;break;
case 17: erg+="seventeen"; wasFound=true;break;
case 18: erg+="eighteen"; wasFound=true;break;
case 19: erg+="nineteen"; wasFound=true;break;
}
}
if(wasFound)break;
if(i==3){
switch(digits[3]){
case 2: erg+="twenty"+words[5]; i++;break;
case 3: erg+="thirty"+words[5]; i++;break;
case 4: erg+="forty"+words[5]; i++;break;
case 5: erg+="fifty"+words[5]; i++;break;
case 8: erg+="eighty"+words[5]; i++;break;
}

}
if (i!=2) {
switch(digits[i]){
case 0: break;
case 1: erg+="one"+words[i];break;
case 2: erg+="two"+words[i];break;
case 3: erg+="three"+words[i];break;
case 4: erg+="four"+words[i];break;
case 5: erg+="five"+words[i];break;
case 6: erg+="six"+words[i];break;
case 7: erg+="seven"+words[i];break;
case 8: erg+="eight"+words[i];break;
case 9: erg+="nine"+words[i];break;
}
}
}
return erg;
}catch(NumberFormatException e){
return "No number/an invalid number was entered!";
}
}else{
return "The number is too large");
}
}


[ Tuesday, November 22, 2005 23:51: Message edited by: NaNoWriMo ]

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Electric Sheep One
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Profile #19
quote:
Originally written by Spring:

Yes, but only piss-weak cars have 120 killowatts. :P
Bah. It depends how big the car is, and whether you really need to be able to pass on a steep hill while going 200 km/h. For driving at normally attainable speeds, even on the Autobahn, it's surprising how little power is really needed. You can pay thousands more for extra oomph that you hardly ever use and never need. This is not worth it unless you are either (a) leaving a trail of oozed testosterone wherever you go, or (b) in denial about the fact that you are no longer (a).

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La Canaliste
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Profile #20
In British English, we say "a hundred and one", "two thousand and twenty" but "four thousand, two hundred".
On reflection, I would say that we class numbers in two groups: those that we name, such as units and tens: six, eleven, seventy-three, and those that we regard as collections: three hundred, six thousand, twenty-five million.
We put an "and" between the collection numbers and the named numbers.
Does that help?

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Posts: 387 | Registered: Tuesday, March 1 2005 08:00
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quote:
Originally written by Skippy the bush kangaroo:

Similarly, we say a car has a hundred and twenty killowatts
They're only killowatts if you get electrocuted.

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Posts: 6936 | Registered: Tuesday, September 18 2001 07:00
Shaper
Member # 22
Profile #22
quote:
The American billion is just a thousand million in British parlance. Hence there are no British billionaires.
While strictly speaking this is true, the British billion is fast falling out of favour and being replaced by the American billion in conversation - if you say "billion" in a conversation, it is presumed that you mean the American billion.

I think this has crossed over to the news and media, as the American billion makes far more sense than the British one ever did.
Posts: 2862 | Registered: Tuesday, October 2 2001 07:00
Law Bringer
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quote:
Originally written by Morgan:

quote:
The American billion is just a thousand million in British parlance. Hence there are no British billionaires.
While strictly speaking this is true, the British billion is fast falling out of favour and being replaced by the American billion in conversation - if you say "billion" in a conversation, it is presumed that you mean the American billion.

I think this has crossed over to the news and media, as the American billion makes far more sense than the British one ever did.

In the same way that feet make more sense than meters? :P

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The only difference is that America does bi-, tri-, and so on based on 10^3n and Britain does it with 10^6n, making up the difference either by using thousands of -ions or by changing -ion to -iard for 10^6n-3. Either one is reasonable, although -ion and -iard confusion could be a problem.

—Alorael, who at least understands the number system now. Billion is clearly from bi, two; trillion is from tri, three; and so on. Million logically has to be one, but in America's 10^3n system, n = 3 for billion, n = 2 for million, and n = 1 for thousand. That shift has been confusing. In Britain, though, since it's 10^6n, n = 1 for million, n = 2 for billion, and it's all nice and sensible.
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