Pronouncing American English Numbers: 5 Easy Tips

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.  Marjorie Feinstein-Whittaker & Lynda Katz-Wilner, authors of  Rules for Using Linguistic Elements of Speech: A Resource and Interactive Workbook, provide straightforward information for mastering pronunciation of numbers.

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:

Time 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.

Money Examples

We saved $23.17 (twenty three seventeen) on groceries.
I had $4.19 (four nineteen) in cash.
Parking cost 13 (thirteen) dollars.

Amount Examples

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.
17 feet
50 mg

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!

Source: Marjorie Feinstein-Whittaker & Lynda Katz-Wilner.  Rules for Using Linguistic Elements of Speech: A Resource and Interactive Workbook. Owings Mills: Successfully Speaking, 2006, 2007, 2nd Edition. Print.


YerusalemAugust 15th, 2014 at 1:08 am

These tips are very useful because properly pronouncing numbers is equally important as pronouncing words and phrases the right way. This is mainly because all the important things around life revolve around numbers whether we talk about our age, phone #, money, facts & figures, etc. Hence, I found these tips to be very important in enhancing our communication skills and helping us to avoid making mistakes. Thank you.

Cher GundersonAugust 15th, 2014 at 2:45 pm

Yerusalem, You’re very welcome. Yes, numbers, as you point out, are all around and in our speech, and are just as important as words. I’m glad you found this article helpful.


Bonnie NussbaumOctober 29th, 2014 at 7:51 am

I love how you laid out this article, Cher. The practice part was particularly helpful.

VeronicaOctober 29th, 2014 at 3:46 pm

You certainly have structure and organization down Cher! This is a very fascinating blog post on where to place emphasis. I never thought of these before but when I think about it they are very important in everyday communication. Really excellent!

Dorothy FitzerOctober 29th, 2014 at 4:27 pm

That was fun Cher! We take so much for granted as native English speakers – and we can get pretty lazy in our enunciation. Good for us as well;)

KaileanOctober 29th, 2014 at 8:31 pm

Very helpful information, and again details that I take so for granted. You present information very clearly, with good examples, and opportunities for practice.

KaileanOctober 29th, 2014 at 8:38 pm

Very helpful information, and again, details that I take so for granted. You present information very clearly, with good examples, and opportunities for practice.

Tina GamesOctober 29th, 2014 at 9:16 pm

Number pronunciation is definitely important when traveling or doing business in any country. ~ Your post has inspired me to go back and review my French numbers for my next visit to Quebec. 🙂

PatriciaNovember 2nd, 2014 at 8:16 pm

This was fun Cher! but most of all, it was very helpful! Thanks for sharing 🙂

TeenaNovember 5th, 2014 at 7:09 am

Cher – This is a very informative and interactive post packed with empowerment tools! Thank you for sharing your wisdom 🙂


Cher GundersonNovember 20th, 2014 at 12:21 pm

You’re very welcome Tina 🙂

Cher GundersonNovember 20th, 2014 at 12:22 pm

You’re very welcome. I’m glad you had fun with it and found it practical 🙂

Cher GundersonNovember 20th, 2014 at 12:23 pm

That is wonderful that you’re inspired to review the French numbers 🙂

Cher GundersonNovember 20th, 2014 at 12:24 pm

Thank you 🙂

Cher GundersonNovember 20th, 2014 at 12:26 pm

Thank you. Structure and organization are so important in the work I do 🙂 I’m glad this blog post was informative.

Cher GundersonNovember 20th, 2014 at 12:26 pm

Thank you 🙂

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