The number of the day
For dates in spoken English, we always use ordinal numbers, i.e. Fourth of July, not Four of July.
Ordinal numbers = Numbers that show the order or sequence. Normally a -TH appears at the end of the number. e.g. seven … seventh
However the ordinal numbers that are highlighted in red in the chart below are irregular or have a slight change in spelling.
In spoken English we ALWAYS use ordinal numbers for dates. However in written English you may write a normal (cardinal) number without the -TH or -ST etc. after it. Even if it is not written, the ordinal number is still said in spoken English. In United States it is NOT common to put the -th after the number in written English.
Order of Days and Months when saying the date
There are two ways of giving the date in English:
Month + Day: December 25 – used in United States.* OR
Day + Month: 25th December – used in the rest of the world.
* The exception is with the name of the US celebration the Fourth of July.
How to say the YEARS in English
Years are normally divided into two parts; the first two digits and the last two digits. **
2017 is divided into 20 and 17 so you would say twenty seventeen.
- 1982 = nineteen eighty-two
- 1999 = nineteen ninety-nine
- 2017 = twenty seventeen
- 2021 = twenty twenty-one
** For the exceptions, see our entire lesson about How to say the YEAR in English.
Writing the date in English
Be careful when writing the dates using only numbers.
For example, Christmas day is written:
- 12 / 25 / 17 in United States (the month is first) and
- 25 / 12 / 17 in the rest of the world (the day is first).
So what day is this? 3/4/17
It depends on the country. It can be:
March fourth, twenty seventeen (in United States) OR
The third of April, twenty seventeen (in the rest of the world)
There’s a big difference, isn’t there!
To avoid confusion, when writing an email or any other written form of English, it is best to write the month as its name (January, February, etc.) or its abbreviation (Jan. Feb. etc.) and NOT as its number.
And remember, the months are always written in Capital letters.
In US English, a comma is put after the day if it is followed by a year.
- March 17, 2016.
- December 22, 2012.
How can you ask for the date in English?
The main ways of asking the date are:
What day is it today?
– People will probably respond with a day of the week (It’s Monday) or the number (It’s the 19th).
What date is it?
– People may give you the number (It’s the 19th) or the day/month (It’s 19th May or May 19th). They will not answer with a day of the week.
What is the date (today)? OR What is today’s date?
– This is another way where you will get a number as an answer.
The response to your question will most likely start with…
- The date is …
- The date today is …
- Today is…
- It is… (most common)
Now, answer these questions
- When is your birthday?
- When were you born?
- When is New Year’s Eve?