How do we say numbers like twenty, thirty, forty, fifty etc. in English?
Well, it depends. There are some curious differences between how I say them in British English and how Jay says them in American English.

For example, twenny vs. twenty. Jay often drops the middle t in twenty and says twenny. Then there’s thirty. There he says the t but it sounds like very fast d sound – commonly known as a flap t.

Do you ever say free instead of three? We’ll tell you about three vs. free pronunciation in England.

We’ll also show you the difference in how we say numbers like thirteen and thirty, fourteen and forty, etc. and we’ll show you how native speakers change the word stress to distinguish between them.

And best of all you’ll meet Super Agent Awesome for a numbers quiz.

Click here to see some more videos on British and American differences.
Click here to see some more pronunciation videos.

Pronouncing numbers in British and American English

Super Agent Awesome.
Yes Vicki.
I have a question.
Do you like quizzes?
Oh quizzes!
Good because I’ve got some quiz questions for you.
Oh yeah.
Yep. Your first one is very hard. How many hours are there in a day?
Seriously? That’s a piece of cake. There are a total of 24 hours in a day.
He got it easily. OK, next one.
That was a piece of cake.
Your mum said you couldn’t get that one.
I wasn’t sure.

Hi, I’m Vicki and I’m British.
And I’m Jay and I’m American.
And there are some differences in how we pronounce numbers.
Curious differences!
Yeah. You just heard one difference from Super Agent Awesome.
Super Agent Awesome is American.

How many hours are there in a day?
Seriously? That’s a piece of cake. There are a total of 24 hours in a day.
He got it easily.

If something’s very easy to do, we say it’s a piece of cake.
Yeah, but what’s this number Jay?
Err. Twenty-four
I say it differently.
Twenty four.
Did you hear the difference?
You didn’t say the t.
I did. t – twenty.
No, the t in the middle. Twenty.
Twenty. If I’m speaking very carefully, I’ll pronounce that middle t sound, but normally I drop it.
We have another example.
I think this might be a bit too easy for you because you’re very good at this. How many letters are there in the English alphabet?
There you are, twenty six.
Twenty six. So this is a British and American difference. Ok. Another one.

Let me see if I can catch you out with this one. How many times does seven go into twenty-one?
Three – he got it right.

I have a question. Do you ever say free instead of three in American English?
Free? No, I don’t. Maybe some Americans do, but no, for me it’s a th sound – th- three.
OK, I say three too, but I read something interesting about this recently. When I was growing up we lived just north of London and a lot of people there said free instead of three. But if I said that at home, my mother complained. She said it’s not proper English. But of course languages change and in some recent studies linguists have found a lot of people in England are saying free instead of three now. It’s spread out from London.
So do most people say free in England?
Not most, but a large number. It’s good news if you find the th sound hard to say. If you say free instead, we’ll probably understand you.

Next question. Are you ready for the next one?
Yes Vicki, I’m so ready.
How many days are there in March?
Erm. Erm. Put on the Jeopardy music. Dum dum dum dum, dum dum dum. Oh I got the answer. Thirty. I mean thirty-one, thirty-one, thirty-one!

He’s right again. Thirty-one.
Or as I say thirty-one. There’s a difference again!
So you’re saying a clear t in the middle.
Thirty-three. If you’re a cockney from London you might say firee-free.
You mean thirty-three?
No, firee-free. So the th becomes f, and with the t sound there’s a glottal stop so you stop the t in your throat. Fir-ee. Fir-ee-free. But that’s not what you’re doing?
No, I’m saying thirty.
The t there is like a d in American English. Linguists often call it a flap t. If something flaps it moves up and down or side to side very fast.
The wings of a bird flap.
A flag can flap in the wind.
It’s a very fast movement.
Your tongue has to move fast too to make that sound.
Thirty, thirty-one, thirty-two, thirty-three.
There are different symbols for this sound. But many dictionaries write it as a t because t and d belong to the same family of sounds.
Yes, Our mouth position is the same, but we add voice to make a d. t. d. There’s vibration here for d.
t. d. Oh yes!

OK, I have another question for you.
What is it Vicki?
This is an addition question. Fifty plus ten equals.
He’s very good.

I’d say fifty and sixty.
Fifty and sixty.
So Americans generally say this flap t in tens numbers.
Thirty, forty, fifty, sixty, seventy, eighty, ninety.
OK, something different now. This isn’t a British and American difference, but it’s something my students often find hard. It’s numbers like thirteen and thirty.
So fourteen, forty, fifteen, fifty, sixteen, sixty.
If you think these numbers sound similar, you’re not alone.
Native speakers sometimes find them hard to distinguish too.

Do we have a meeting with Kathy, today?
Yes, this afternoon.
Oh, what time is it? I can’t be late again.
Oh yes. She was furious last time.
When is it?
Let’s see. Three fifteen.
Three fifty. I’ll set an alarm for 3.40 so I won’t be late. What?
Oh nothing. See you there!
See you there.

I’m going to arrive late now! You set me up again!
Yes, I didn’t correct you.
To set someone up is a phrasal verb and it means to trick them. You might make it appear that they have done something wrong when they haven’t.
Yeah! You’re going to get into trouble when you’re late again.
Three fifteen, three fifty. They sound very similar. How do we tell the difference?
It’s all about the stress. With numbers like thirty, forty, fifty, the stress is always on the first syllable.
That’s true in British and American English.
THIRty, FORty, FIFty.
So the first syllable is longer, louder and higher in pitch.
Now have a look at these numbers. Where’s the stress?
With teen numbers, the stress can be on the first syllable OR it can be on the second syllable. It depends what we want to make clear.
If we’re counting where’s the stress? For example: THIRteen, FOURteen, FIFteen, SIXteen.
If we’re counting, the stress is on the first syllable. We want to distinguish between the numbers so we stress the part that’s different. That’s the first syllable.
OK. Now what if the number comes in front of a noun? Where’s the stress? For example THIRteen people. FOURteen years. FIFteen dollars.
The stress is on the first syllable again.
it’s because the number was followed by a noun. But if there’s no noun, it’s different. Listen.

I don’t like the number thirTEEN. It’s unlucky.

So Jay stressed the second syllable there.
I said thirTEEN.

How many days until my birthday? FourTEEN.

Vicki stressed the second syllable there.
When we say the number on its own we stress the teen. One more example.

Which floor?
Fifteen. Thank you.

When we say these numbers on their own, we generally stress TEEN.
It sounds complicated. How can everyone remember which syllable to stress?
There’s a simple way.
Just remember two things. First one – in numbers like thirty, forty, fifty, sixty, the stress is always on the first syllable.
That’s easy.
And the second thing. If you think confusion is a possibility, put the stress on ‘teen’ in the teen numbers – thirTEEN, fourTEEN, fifTEEN, sixTEEN.
And that’s how English speakers avoid confusion.

I filled your car with gas.
Oh thank you. How much do I owe you?
Sixty dollars.
OK. Ten, fifteen, sixteen. Thanks.
No, I said SIXty dollars.
Oh. I thought you said sixTEEN dollars.

The first time I said SIXteen dollars. But when there was confusion, I stressed the teen.

Oh. I thought you said sixTEEN dollars.

So stress the second syllable in teen numbers
Exactly. SIXty, sixTEEN.
It’s the same in British and American English. SIXty, sixTEEN.
But you know, there are some other ways we say numbers differently. Like telephone numbers, and dates.
Yeah. We’ll make another video about them, but I should say goodbye to Super Agent Awesome now.
Oh yes.

So. Super Agent Awesome. Thank you for helping us with this video. Do you have a message for our viewers?
Absolutely. Why wouldn’t I? Hey English learners. Super Agent Awesome here. If you want to subscribe to this channel, hit that icon right here. And if you see the bell icon next to the subscribe button, you can get notified. And what notified means is on your YouTube account you can gat notified everytime Jay and Vicki have released a video. And you can watch it very early. Heck! You can be the first one here! So that’s my special announcemnet and it’s over. I’m Super Agent Awesome and remember, always stay awesome! Peace!
If you want to see another video that Jay and Vicki posted, hit that icon right here. And if you want to see another one because your mind is blown, hit this icon right here. And if you want to subscribe to this channel, hit that icon right here.

Click here to see some more videos on British and American differences.
Click here to see some more pronunciation videos.

Pronouncing numbers in British and American English


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