How to make a billion (Wikipedia) |

**Note:** Most of us can write big numbers--say, thousands, millions, or billions--but saying them out loud can be a challenge. Learn how in this lesson.

**Get Ready:** What's the biggest number you know how to say? Do you know anything past one billion?

Lily, a Chinese student, asks her American friend Becky, for help in the Common Room of their dorm.

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Lily:Hi, Becky. Could you help me with some math for a few minutes?

Becky:Mehelpyou?! But Lily, you're a math genius!

Lily:Well, maybe, but I'm having some troubles saying big numbers in English.

Becky:Oh, so it's anEnglishproblem! That, I can help with!

Lily:Thanks. So, in my country <writing on the whiteboard>, we put the comma here, so numbers look like this <points to "1,0000">.

Becky:Oh, you have the comma in the wrong place!

Lily:Wrong for you, maybe, but not for us. This is "one wan."

Becky:OK. For us it looks like this <writes "10,000"> and it's "ten thousand."

Lily:What about bigger numbers?

Becky:Well, we write numbers in groups of three. Let's look at this <writes "342,685,197">. So just look at the first group of three; how do you say it?

Lily:"Three hundred and forty-two."

Becky:Right! The next group?

Lily:"Six hundred and eighty-five."

Becky:And the last?

Lily:"One hundred and ninety-seven."

Becky:Perfect. Now, count the commas from the right.

Lily:There are two.

Becky:The first one from the right is named "thousand" and the second is named "million."

Lily:I see. And the next would be "billion," right?

Becky:Exactly! So, starting from theleft, you'd say...

Lily:"Three hundred and forty-two million, and six hundred and eighty-five thousand, and one hundred and ninety-seven."

Becky:Great! But don't say "and" so much. Better would be "Three hundred forty-two million, six hundred eighty-five thousand, one hundred and ninety-seven."

Lily:Got it. What about zeroes?

Becky:Good question. Ignore them!

Lily:What do you mean?

Becky:Well, what's this? <writes "000000001">

Lily:That's "one."

Becky:Right. So in this number <changes numbers so the previous number now reads "302,600,007">, just don't say the zeroes unless they're part of another number, like "three-hundred two" or "six hundred."

Lily:Let me try, then: "Three hundred two million, six hundred thousand, and seven."

Becky:You got it!

Lily:Thanks for your help, Becky. Now I just have to practice!

*Read more:* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long_and_short_scale

**Practice:** Practice saying these numbers. Remember to count the commas from the right and "name" them properly.

- 27,193
- 4,009
- 120,407,920
- 900,000,001
- 1,356,790,200

*Answers are in the first comment below.*

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for January 23, 2012

This lesson received **182 visits** on my old site between January, 2012, and July, 2021.

Answers to the Practice:

ReplyDelete1. twenty-seven thousand, one hundred [and] ninety-three

2. four thousand [and] nine

3. one-hundred twenty million, four-hundred seven thousand, nine hundred [and] twenty

4. nine million [and] one

5. one billion, three hundred fifty-six million, seven hundred ninety thousand, [and] two hundred