English Numbers

English Numbers

 When we use the word number, we refer to specific numbers:

Start by with numbers one through 20. If you are teaching in a classroom, you can write a list on the board and point to the numbers, asking student to repeat after you as you point. Once students have learned these numbers, you can move on to other, larger numbers. 

1 - one

2 - two

3 - three

4 - four

5 - five

6 - six

7 - seven

8 - eight

9 - nine

10 - ten

11 - eleven

12 - twelve

13 - thirteen

14 - fourteen

15 - fifteen

16 - sixteen

17 - seventeen

18 - eighteen

19 - nineteen

20 - twenty

Practicing Random Numbers

If you are working with a group of students, you can write a list of random numbers on the board and point to the numbers as you work your way around the classroom.

Teacher: Susan, what number is this?

Student(s): 15

Teacher: Olaf, what number is this?

Student(s): 2

Learning the 'Tens'

Next, students learn 'tens' which they can use with ever larger numbers. If you are teaching, you can write out a list of the tens and point to them one by one, asking the students to repeat after you:

10 - ten

20 - twenty

30 - thirty

40 - forty

50 - fifty

60 - sixty

70 - seventy

80 - eighty

90 - ninety

100 - One hundred

Combining 'Tens' and Single Digits

Next the teacher should write a list of various numbers, both single digits and multiples of ten and point to the numbers. This will allow students cover all the numbers up to 100. Ask your students to repeat after you as you point to the numbers. For example: point to the 20 and then the two. 

Student(s): 22

Teacher: [points to 30 and six]

Student(s): 36

Teacher: [points to 40 and eight]

Student(s): 48, etc

Continue this exercise around the class.

Contrasting 'Teens' and 'Tens'

The 'teens' and 'tens' can be tricky because of difficulties is distinguishing between similar-sounding pairs like 13 - 30, 14 -40, etc. Write the following list of numbers and as you point to the numbers, exaggerate the pronunciation, emphasizing the 'teen' of each number and the unaccented 'y' on the 'tens'.

12 - 20

13 - 30

14 - 40

15 - 50

16 - 60

17 - 70

18 - 80

19 - 90

Be careful to pronounce slowly, pointing out the difference in pronunciation between 14, 15, 16, etc. and 40, 50, 60, etc.

Now ask your students to repeat after you.

Teacher: Please repeat after me. 12 - 20

Student(s): 12 - 20

13 - 30

14 - 40

15 - 50

16 - 60

17 - 70

18 - 80

19 - 90

If numbers are especially important for your class, teaching basic math vocabulary should prove quite helpful as well.

Here’s the phone number of the firm where she works.

She plays in the local hockey team and wears the number six.

We also use the phrases a number ofnumbers of or the number of with a plural verb when we mean ‘many’ or ‘several’:

There are a number of things we need to discuss.

A significant number of people are ill with flu so the performance had to be cancelled.

Large numbers of bees have died because of the cold summer.

I couldn’t believe the number of cars that were parked outside the hall.

Numbers: firstsecondthird

Numbers such as first, secondthird are ordinal numbers. We use them to put things in an order. We most commonly use ordinal numbers as determiners. When we use ordinal numbers as determiners (before nouns), we commonly use other determiners such as articles (a/anthe) and possessives (myyour) in front of them:

This was the fifth science exam that he had failed.

It’s her twenty-first birthday and she’s spending it with friends in Malaysia.

We use the ordinal numbers to refer to dates. We usually write them in abbreviated form and often in superscript (above the line). We usually say the and of when we speak, but we often omit them in writing:

My birthday is 3rd January. (usually spoken as ‘the third of January’)

The museum was opened on 25th June 2008.

What are you doing on the 2nd of May? Do you want to join us at the theatre?

We also use ordinal numbers as nouns:

All three singers in the competition were excellent but I’m voting for the third.

Ordinal numbers are also used as adverbs:


He came tenth in the New York marathon.


That’s fantastic! Did he really?

First, let me introduce you to my brother Jack.

Numbers: onetwothree

Numbers such as one, five, eleven, two hundred are cardinal numbers. We most commonly use cardinal numbers as determiners (before nouns). When we use them in this way, we can use other determiners such as articles (a/anthe) and possessives (myyour) in front of them. We can use cardinal numbers + of before determiners (one of my friends):

She loves animals and has two dogs, three cats and one rabbit.

My two best friends are Amy and Louise.

Three of his colleagues were sacked yesterday. (sacked = lost their jobs)

We also use cardinal numbers as nouns:

The children arrived in twos and threes.

Large numbers

We normally say a hundred, a thousand, a million. We only say one hundred, one thousand and one million when we want to emphasise the number:

What would you do if you won a million euros? (preferred to one million euros)

The city is about a hundred kilometres from the capital.

Numbers such as 100, 200, 1,000, etc. do not take a plural -s when we use them as determiners:

There were about two hundred people at the meeting.

Not: There were about two hundreds people …

However, we use the plural forms hundredsthousandsmillions + of + noun to refer to large, non-specific numbers:

It’s happened hundreds of times.

Millions of people live in poverty.

We often use commas in writing to separate long numbers of a thousand or more into each thousand part:

The repairs cost £1,250.

A total of $5,000,000 was spent on the project.