Million vs Millions

Common Mistakes in English

The difference between Million and Millions

Which of the following sentences is grammatically correct?

A: New Zealand has a population of four million people

B: New Zealand has a population of four millions people

The first sentence (A) is correct and the second sentence (B) is incorrect. Why?

 

English students often get confused about when to put an S on the end of words like hundred, thousand, and million. Below are the rules:

Million

When we have large numbers or a specific number, we do NOT put an S at the end of hundred, thousand, and million.

We say five thousand (correct)
NOT five thousands (incorrect).

Sometimes we say a hundred instead of one hundred and a thousand instead of one thousand (and the same for a million).

Remember, when we are talking about an exact number (e.g. one million, eight thousand, two hundred and sixty-four), we do not put an S on the end of any of the numbers.

Millions

We can use an S at then of hundreds, thousands, millions etc to express an approximate figure.
This gives people an idea of quantity but not a precise amount.

In addition hundreds/thousands/millions etc are often followed by of + countable noun
As we are using plurals here, you should never put A in front of hundreds, thousands or millions.

Compare:

  • He won a million dollars in the lottery
    = He won exactly $1,000,000
  • He won millions of dollars in the lottery
    = He won an unspecified amount but it was in the millions.

We often use hundreds/millions etc when we want to give the impression of ‘very many’ and we are often exaggerating, using the numbers as a figure of speech.

e.g.

I went camping in Australia and returned with hundreds of mosquito bites!
This is obviously an exaggeration but it gives the impression of very many.

I went camping in Australia and returned with one hundred mosquito bites.
This gives an impression that you literally have one hundred bites on your body. It sounds like you counted them since it is a specific number.

See our vocabulary notes about Numbers in English.

 


 

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9 Responses to “Million vs Millions”

  1. Nathan Kim 11 October, 2011 at 9:37 am #

    How about this sentence
    1>The population of Ireland dropped by about 2 millions
    2>The population of Ireland dropped by about 2 million

    Which is right?

    • woodward 28 October, 2011 at 2:25 pm #

      Hi Nathan,
      The second sentence is correct… 2 million (without the S) because we have a number (in this case the number 2) in front of the word million.

    • amber 24 December, 2013 at 11:37 am #

      The population of Ireland dropped by about 2 million

  2. Luana Lara neves 9 November, 2011 at 3:43 pm #

    How about this sentence
    1- I bought a three million / millions dollar car.?

    and

    2- Millions/ Million attended the olympic womem soccer in beijing. ?

    • Lawan 4 April, 2012 at 6:03 pm #

      1. million – ‘cos you are being specific – three million

      2. Millions – not specific – exaggeration – implying a lot of people attended.

      • woodward 13 April, 2012 at 7:59 am #

        That’s right.
        And yes, sometimes we say millions (or thousands etc) when we exaggerate.

    • karen 10 September, 2013 at 7:21 pm #

      Hi!
      The first sentence is wrong, it is not necessary to say “a” before three, it is because three is in a plural way.
      I would say:
      1. I bought three million cars.
      2. Millions attended the olympic womem soccer in beijing.

  3. John Greenman 28 July, 2014 at 7:12 pm #

    In the 19th C, (and before?) people in the USA (and elsewhere) would say, and write “millions” as opposed to “million” when saying “twenty millions, five hundred thousand dollars” or any other number larger than one million.
    When was the plural of million (millions) no longer used, as at present??

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  1. Numbers from 1 to 100 in English | Woodward English - 15 May, 2014

    […] I added some of the larger numbers too (hundred, thousand, million). I recommend reading about the difference between million and millions and when you should (and should NOT) put an S at the end of the word. This same rules apply when […]

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