How to PRONOUNCE English NUMBERS!
Are you pronouncing English numbers correctly? Do people sometimes misunderstand you when you talk about numbers in English? Let’s change that!
In this lesson, we will review how to pronounce English numbers clearly and naturally, so people can finally understand you when you speak! 🙌
Hey I’m Emma from mmmEnglish! Now I know you learned English numbers way back at the beginning, when you first started learning English, right? But did you learn how to pronounce them correctly too? English numbers can be difficult to pronounce. Some of them have some pretty crazy consonant clusters.
In today’s pronunciation lesson, I’ll teach you the natural pronunciation of English numbers. Cardinal numbers, one, two, three, fifteen, thirty-seven. And ordinal numbers, first, second, third, etcetera. So get your tongue ready for a workout, we’re going to the gym!
Getting your pronunciation right in English takes practice. For certain sounds that are difficult for you, you literally have to train your mouth muscles. You need to take them to the gym for a daily workout and one of the best ways to do that is daily imitation practice, so copying or imitating the sounds that a native speaker makes. It helps you to relax your accent and communicate more clearly when you speak. And doing this daily will help to improve your overall pronunciation and expression.
The mmmEnglish Imitation courses are available right up here and also in the description below.So if you want to check them out go for it.
So let’s keep it simple first.
Now the pronunciation of many of these numbers is pretty straightforward but I want to highlight and practise some of the tricky ones. We want to get the basics right first. Now some of them might be a little difficult for you because the particular sounds in them are not so common in your native language. And as with any strange sounds, you just need to get a little practice to help your tongue to feel more comfortable.
So that’s the unvoiced /θ/ TH sound and the /r/ consonant sound and then the long E vowel sound.
That consonant pair /f/ and /v/ have exactly the same mouth position but one sound is voiced, the other is unvoiced. And that vowel sound between them is the I vowel sound. Don’t forget that consonant sound at the end. My Vietnamese students, especially.
Now the tricky part here is that double consonant sound at the end of the word. /k/ and /s/
So that sound is made right at the back of your mouth, your tongue should be blocking the air at the top of your mouth before it releases the air. So you need to bring the sound to the front of your mouth for the sound now. So my tongue is just behind my teeth when I make that sound okay? The air is making this sound by pushing through the gaps in my teeth. So we move from the back of the mouth to the front.
Now with two syllable words in English, there’s always a primary stress. So here we need to put our stress on the first syllable. The second syllable reduces right down to the schwa sound, it’s very short and low in pitch. Some native speakers won’t even include that schwa sound, they’ll just jump from one consonant sound to the other.
Alright those are the tricky ones. Let’s practise one to ten again.
Alright it’s time to move on to the -teens now.
Now ‘eleven’ rhymes with ‘seven’ so that’s the last syllable pronounced in exactly the same way. But notice that the middle syllable is the strongest.
The E on the end is silent so we don’t hear it at all but there are a couple of tricky consonant pairs here. At the start we’ve got /tw/ then we need to add the /v/ sound at the end. Now the /lv/ consonant cluster is not very common in English so if it’s tough for you, don’t feel bad.
For thirteen to nineteen, the second syllable is the strongest. The -teen is always stressed.
So again we’ve got the unvoiced /θ/ sound. And the /ɜː/ consonant sound. So in my Australian accent, the R is silent. In American accents you’ll hear that R. You won’t hear it from me. You may also hear the T in the middle sound a bit more like a D when native speakers say it. This happens a lot in America and Australia, especially when the T is between two vowel sounds. So you might hear ‘thirteen’ or ‘thirteen’.
Now a lot of those pronunciation rules apply for ‘fourteen’ as well. Again, you don’t hear the R in my accent. And the T can sound like a flap T.
You know with all of these -teen numbers, it’s so important that you pronounce the final consonant sound. Why? Because without it ‘fifteen’ can sound a lot like ‘fifty’.
It’s confusing so make sure you include the /n/ sound. The others are really simple. You just need to add -teen to the end of the number.
Depending if you use the flap T or not. It’s more common to hear the flap T here because it’s between those two vowel sounds.
Alright let’s go through them all together one more time before we move on.
Alright let’s take a look at this set of numbers now.
And start with ‘twenty’. So when spoken by native speakers, the T sound might disappear. It might sound like.
It cost only twenty bucks!
Now the good news is that these numbers all sound very similar to the last group. It’s just that the ending is slightly different but because the difference is only a small one, these words are really easy to confuse. So I want to practise them with you.
It’s really easy to confuse ‘thirteen’ with ‘thirty’. Okay? So in ‘thirty’ the last syllable, the vowel sound is a little shorter than ‘thirteen’. Right? But again it’s really common to hear that flap T sound.
Can you hear it? And check out the spelling here. Can you notice the difference? You’ve really got to keep that in mind. Little spelling errors.
Notice the pronunciation change here, we’ve got five, fifteen and fifty. So that vowel sound gets a little shorter.
So check out the IPA symbols here just to show you what sounds are actually needed to pronounce this correctly. That last syllable is very short and very fast.
So you might hear native speakers drop the T here as well. So you might hear native speakers drop the T here as well. It’s really common to hear ‘seventy’ rather than ‘seventy’.
Can you hear that flap T sound when I say it? You’ll also hear ‘eighty’.
Now again like ‘seventy’, native speakers might get a little lazy with this one and you might just hear them say ‘ninety’.
Alright now let’s put all of this together, right? When you see the numbers on the screen right here, I want you to say them out loud where you are, where you’re watching, then compare your pronunciation to mine.
Okay time for a very quick break and a chance to rest your tongue for a moment but don’t go anywhere we’re about to practise ordinal numbers.
First, second, fifth, tenth. Ordinal numbers are numbers that show the order of things.
She won the marathon, she came first.
The second thing I want to mention today is..
This is the fifteenth time I’m telling you to be quiet.
Ordinal numbers are tricky to pronounce because what makes them ordinal numbers is we actually add a bunch more consonant sounds onto the ends of each word. And if you didn’t notice already, consonant clusters or groups of consonants together in a word are really quite difficult to pronounce.
So we have the ER as in ‘her’ vowel sound and the /st/ consonant cluster. So it’s the same for ‘twenty-first’ or ‘eighty-first’.
So the stress is on the first syllable and the second one is unstressed so the vowel sound reduces down. That second syllable is very quick.
So this is the unvoiced /θ/ sound. And this is the same vowel sound as in ‘first’. The vowel sound. And in my accent, you don’t hear that sound like you would in an American accent.
Now we get to the tricky ones, right? All of the other ordinal numbers end in a -TH. The unvoiced TH sound and if that wasn’t hard enough already, this creates some crazy consonant clusters at the ends of some of these words. But we’ll start easy with my accent.
‘Four’ ends in a vowel sound so we just add the TH sound after it.
Not too hard, right? It’s a little harder, we’ve got the unvoiced /f/ and the unvoiced /θ/ Both of those sounds are made with air blowing out but you need to change the position of your lips and your tongue. Watching.
So we’ve got three consonant sounds in a row here. Pretty tough! Now they’re all unvoiced sounds and so they’re made by pushing air through your mouth.
The thing that you need to pay attention to is what is happening in your mouth and where are these sounds happening. The /k/ is at the back. The /s/ is behind your teeth. And the is /θ/ at your teeth. Okay so we’re moving all the way through the mouth to make these sounds.
That TH sound at the end, it doesn’t have to be super strong but you do need to make your tongue just pop through your teeth a little.
So make sure you don’t slip a little tiny schwa sound between that /n/ and /θ/ sound. I know it’s tempting but try and keep those consonant sounds together.
So can you hear that stop T sound at the end of ‘eight’? Before I make the TH sound, I’m not saying ‘eightf’ but ‘eighth’. Check the spelling too, it’s a little tricky. Don’t spell it like ‘eight’ with another TH. We just have ‘eight’ with a H on the end.
Now like ‘seventh’, we’ve got that /n/ + /θ/ consonant cluster again.
It’s the twenty-ninth of June.
Now again, just like ‘seventh’ and ‘ninth’, we’ve got the /n/ and /θ/ consonant cluster here.
This is his tenth visit to Bali.
So here again we’ve got the /n/ + /θ/ consonant cluster. It’s definitely worth practising that one, right?
We’ll arrive on the eleventh of August.
Oh my God look at this word! It’s crazy! Five consonant sounds and only one vowel. That means there’s only one syllable. So let’s break it down a little. We’ve got the /twe/ or /twel/ group of sounds just like from ‘twelve’. There are a few more consonant sounds to make, right?
So we’re moving the tongue and the mouth through those different sounds but start to bring them together.
Now I’m going to give you a little secret here. You don’t really need to pronounce both the /f/ and /θ/ consonant sounds here. That’s a pretty big ask! You could use either one and everybody is still going to understand you. You could say ‘twelfth’ with the /f/ consonant sound or the ‘twelfth’ with the /f/ consonant sound or the ‘twelfth’ with the /θ/ consonant sound. I do it as well okay? It’s a really, really hard word to say so usually when I’m saying it I will just reduce down the number of consonant sounds and say ‘twelfth’
It’s the twelfth of May.
Alright, now it’s time to test your pronunciation skills. You’ll see a number up here, it’ll be an ordinal number. I want you to say it out loud before I say it so that you can check and compare your pronunciation to mine. Ready?
I’ve got to be honest with you, we really don’t make it that easy for you, do we? There are some subtle pronunciation changes and some changes to spelling, some crazy consonant clusters, it’s almost like it’s designed to make you mess up and make mistakes, right?
Well I hope this lesson helped to clear up some of your doubts and that you’re pronouncing your numbers just as well as a native speaker now. Remember that with pronunciation, it takes practice. It’s not going to be instant. Just watching this lesson once is not going to change your habits and improve your pronunciation, you need to come back and practise with me again and again so over time, your natural pronunciation becomes like my natural pronunciation.
I make English lessons here on the mmmEnglish YouTube Channel every week. Make sure you subscribe by hitting that button right there and check out some of these other lessons right here. See you in there!
Links mentioned in the video
What’s the difference between American & British English?
Don’t make these common PRONUNCIATION MISTAKES!
SYLLABLE STRESS in English