Pronouncing American English Numbers: 5 Easy Tips
By Cher N Gunderson | Submitted On February 24, 2021
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The Importance of Pronouncing English Numbers
When you pronounce English numbers accurately, your communication partners will focus on WHAT you’re saying and not on HOW you’re saying it. You’ll sound more natural in your speech rhythm. In this article, you’ll learn straight-forward rules for pronouncing numbers when speaking about time, amount, and money.
Pronunciation of numbers requires knowledge of where to place stress. Stress means that we speak in a louder and higher pitched voice. The duration of your voice will also be slightly longer. Place stress on the syllables indicated below. The stress location changes depending on whether the number is a “teen,” “ten,” or number above twenty.
Pronouncing Numbers with Accurate Stress Placement: 5 Easy Tips
1. Stress for Counting Teen Numbers
Stress the first syllable in “teen” numbers. For example, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, eighteen, nineteen.
2. Stress for Counting Numbers Above Twenty
When counting, stress the second number for numbers above twenty. For example, twenty-one, twenty-two, twenty-three, twenty-four, twenty-five, twenty-six, twenty-seven, twenty-eight, twenty-nine.
3. Stress for Counting and Telling Time with “Ten” Numbers
Stress the first syllable when counting or referring to the “ten” numbers. For example, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, sixty, seventy, eighty, ninety.
4. Stress for Time, Money, Amount-Teen Numbers
When stating numbers, as in time, money, or amounts, stress the last part of the “teen” numbers. Note that you stress a different syllable than when you’re counting. For example, notice that the stressed syllables are the following examples:
The meeting starts at 8:15 (eight fifteen) sharp.
The activity ended at exactly 7:13 ( seven thirteen).
The winning time in the race was 1:16 (one sixteen).
*Note that when stating numbers as they relate to money, time, and measurements, use the preceding rules for pronouncing the numbers. However, the primary stress shifts to the nouns and subsequently, the numbers receive secondary stress. For example, seventeen dollars, fourteen cents, eighteen pounds, thirteen Euros, thirteen hours.
We saved $23.17 (twenty three seventeen) on groceries.
I had $4.19 (four nineteen) in cash.
Parking cost 13 (thirteen) dollars.
I made 14 (fourteen) pounds of potato salad for the family picnic.
He needed 16 (sixteen) more hours of supervised clinical hours before he was eligible for his counseling license.
We ordered 18 (eighteen) square feet if carpeting for the room.
5. Stress for Stating Time, Money, Amount-Numbers other than “Ten” Numbers
Stress the last part of the number. See examples below:
9:25 (nine twenty-five)
7:55 (seven fifty-five)
12:45 (twelve fourth-five)
Applying your Knowledge: Practice Exercises
It’s time to apply what you’ve learned. Put it into use in your own everyday life. Read aloud the following numbers and stress the syllables according to the rules above.
In summary, numbers receive stress depending on the following factors. Stress changes depending on whether they’re “teen,” “ten,” numbers above twenty, whether you’re counting or stating time, money, and amounts, and whether you’re naming the unit of money, time, or amount.
Here’s to your American Accent when speaking in numbers!
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Master Your Accent empowers accented professionals to fully express their skills, talents, personalities, and spirits to advance their professional and personal lives! We decrease the risk of misunderstandings. Our curriculum results in mastering the American English sound patterns and cultural components not taught in any traditional English language programs.
Cher N. Gunderson M.S., CCC-SLP
Founder of Master Your Accent. LLC