How to Correctly Say the Date in English

Today, we'll tell you everything you need to know about saying the date in English. This piece covers how to:

How to Say the Day of the Month in English

When someone asks, "What's today's date?", they usually just want to know what day it is.

In fact, it's common for people to just say the date by itself.

  • This assignment will be due on the 12th.
  • We're meeting up on the 26th if you want to join?

Notice that the sentences above say "the 2nd" and "the 12th" – not "2" or "12." This is because, in English, we use ordinal numbers to say the dates.

Ordinal numbers are used to say the order of things. For example, the three people who finish a race the earliest are "first place," "second place," and "third place" – not "one place," "two place," and "three place." Similarly, the three days at the beginning of each month are the "first," the "second," and the "third" day of the month.

So the most important part of saying the date in English is to remember the ordinal numbers up to 31. This sounds difficult, but remember that the most common suffix for ordinal numbers is "-th." So you just need to remember seven exceptions:

  • 1st: first
  • 2nd: second
  • 3rd: third
  • 21st: twenty-first
  • 22nd: twenty-second
  • 23rd: twenty-third
  • 31st: thirty-first

Keep in mind that in writing, English speakers often write dates without suffixes. This is the standard in news articles and we follow it in our Daily News too:

However, when reading the dates aloud, make sure to read them as ordinal numbers whether or not the suffix is there. For example, "November 9" in the article above needs to be read "November ninth."

How to Say The Days of the Week in English

Here are all the days of the week in English along with common abbreviations. Click on the links to hear their pronunciation.

Abbreviations

Mon
Tue, Tues
Wed
Thu, Thur, Thurs
Fri
Sat
Sun

People often use days of the week together with words like "next" or "last."

  • Are you free for coffee next Monday?
  • I was busy last Wednesday, so I couldn't come.
  • I have a doctor's appointment this coming Friday.
  • This assignment is due two Thursdays from now.

The day of the week is sometimes also mentioned alongside the date.

  • Are you free on Tuesday the 11th?
  • Friday the 13th is considered an unlucky day.

Notice that the day of the week is before the date. Remember, "Friday the 13th" refers to "Friday, the 13th day of the month." If you say the date first (e.g. "the 13th Friday"), it would sound like you're talking about the last of 13 Fridays!

English speakers also often say the days of the week in their plural form. This means "every week on that day."

  • I go jogging on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
  • He gets off work early on Fridays.

How to Say The Months in English

Here are the months of the year along with common abbreviations. Click on the links to hear them pronounced.

Abbreviations

Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
-
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep, Sept
Oct
Nov
Dec

Months are often mentioned together with phrases like "early," "mid-," "late" or "sometime."

  • We don't know exactly when Shakespeare was born, but we know his birthday is in late April.
  • Apple's new phone will be released sometime in November.
  • Japan's cherry blossom season usually starts mid-March.

In spoken language, there are two standard ways to refer to a month along with the day of the month.

Month + Day

  • Halloween is October 31st.
  • July 4th is a holiday in the US.

the + Day + of + Month

  • Halloween is the 31st of October.
  • The 4th of July is a holiday in the US.

There are also two standard ways to write dates: the American way and the British way.

American format

  • Are you free on December 7th?
  • Are you free on 12/7?

British format

  • Are you free on 7th December?
  • Are you free on 7/12?

As you can see, writing the date only in numbers can cause a lot of confusion. "7/12" means "December 7th" in the UK and much of Europe, but it means "July 12th" in the US and much of East Asia. So if you're writing to people around the world, it's best to write out the name of the month.

Also, keep in mind that the date in the British format is not read the way it's written. "7th December" is not pronounced "seventh December." It's read "the seventh of December." If you say "Are you free on seventh December?", you will sound unnatural.

Finally, it's becoming more and more common to write the date using plain numbers instead of ordinal numbers. So don't be surprised if you see people write "7 December" or "December 7."

How to Say Years in English

In English, the year always comes at the end of the date.

  • The final exam was held on Tuesday, December 17th, 2019.
  • The final exam was held on Tuesday, 17 December, 2019.

There are two ways to read years after 2000. We can read them as normal numbers ("two thousand (and) nineteen"), or as two separate numbers ("twenty nineteen").

  • Krishna graduated in 2020. ["twenty twenty" or "two thousand (and) twenty"]
  • The 2012 Olympics were held in London. ["twenty twelve" or "two thousand (and) twelve"]

Years before 2000 are only read as two separate numbers.

  • An important battle in English history happened in 1066. ["ten sixty-six"]
  • My grandfather died in 1962. ["nineteen sixty-two"]

Years like 2000 or 1200, which have two or three zeroes, are read like any other number. English speakers often include the phrase "the year."

  • Henry I became King of England in the year 1100. ["eleven hundred"]
  • Our son was born in 2000. ["two thousand"]
  • In the year 3000, we may all be living on Mars. ["three thousand"]

Some years have a zero in their third digit: e.g. 2008, 1903, 1302. The zero is read "oh."

  • A huge economic crisis started in 2008. ["twenty oh-eight" or "two thousand (and) eight"]
  • The airplane was invented in 1903. ["nineteen oh-three"]

And if you don't know the exact year something happened, just mention the century.

  • Shakespeare was born in the middle of the 16th century.
  • Shakespeare was born in the mid 1500s. ["fifteen hundreds"]

Or you can mention the decade.

  • Shakespeare was born in the 1560s. ["fifteen sixties"]
  • A lot of internet companies were founded in the early 2000s. ["two thousands"]
  • This style of clothing was popular in the 1980s. ["nineteen eighties"]

The 1980s can also be referred to as "the eighties." Other decades in the 20th century are often referred to this way.

  • Elvis Presley was a famous singer in the fifties. [=1950s]
  • My grandparents met in the seventies. [=1970s]

Prepositions

Finally, remember that prepositions are often used when talking about time. "In" is used for a period of time, like a month, year, decade, or century.

  • Spring starts in March.
  • The Berlin wall fell in the year 1989.

"On" is used with points in time like dates and days of the week.

  • This article was published on the 10th.
  • Where were you on Wednesday?

Just keep in mind that English speakers often omit "on" when they mention a date along with the day of the week and/or month.

  • Are you free (on) Tuesday the 11th?
  • The article was published (on) November 10th.
  • Harry Potter was born (on) 31 July 1980.

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