Let's Talk Numbers##


Let's Talk Numbers

"Was that 30 or 13 million?"

When talking prices, giving instructions, or providing addresses and emails, especially when speaking over the phone, it's important to make sure that you are speaking clearly and pronouncing numbers distinctly, so that your listener does not misunderstand critical information.

Sometimes non-native English speakers lack awareness for subtle sound and intonation differences in number words. For example, "teen" numbers are stressed on the second syllable-thir TEEN, four TEEN, unless you are counting down, and then it will sound like "THIR teen, FOUR teen, FIF teen..." So in connected speech, you would say "We need 13 (THIR teen) orders." Not to be confused with "30 (THIR dee) orders." "The address is 17 (seven TEEN) Madison Avenue," as compared to "The address is 70 (SEVen dee) Madison Avenue."

With numbers ending in zero, the stress is on the first syllable-THIR dee, FOR dee. "We made 30 (THIR dee) million dollars." That's better than 13;)

In a medical context, 70 (SEVen dee) milligrams of medicine is very different from 17 (seven TEEN), and could even mean the difference between life and death.

You hear how Americans will often change a 't' sound to 'd' at the beginning of an unstressed syllable: 30, 40 (THIR dee, FOR dee) as opposed to 13, 14 (thir TEEN, four TEEN). However, even when saying the teen numbers with the stress on the first syllable (THIR teen), the "t" in "teen" is still a plosive t.

Also, when stating numbers over the phone, it's easier to understand "6664" than "triple 6-4." Likewise, it's easier to understand "3-1-7-0" than "thirty-one seventy." In addition, be consistent by using the letter "o" or "zero" in the same number; don't switch between the two.

There is also a definite intonation pattern when saying numbers. You want to speak in thought groups, making sure to clearly pronounce the endings of numbers. You can use an upward intonation for the first two parts and then a downward inflection at the end to denote finality. 

 ---/  ---/       \

212 834-4039

or, you could use falling pitch throughout, with greater fall at the end.

   \       \        \

212 834-4039

(With audio) I'm going to say all of the single digit numbers, and then the teen numbers-said both ways, as explained, and multiples of 10 numbers. At the end, I'll provide a few more numbers:


13 30

14 40

15 50

16 60

17 70

18 80

19 90


a thousand

a million


And that's a wrap. 3-2-1