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Using dates in English

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 Numbers 4 : dates


Index : Numbers - cardinals Numbers - ordinals Fractions and decimals

1. Expressing dates in English

This is a point on which British English and American English differ.
When dates are expressed in words, this is not a problem, as the use of full words will identify the date with no possible ambiguity.

Writing dates in figures

When writing dates in figures, it can be vital to know whether one is writing for British (or European) readers or American readers. If there is any doubt, or if one is writing for an international readership, it may be necessary to use words rather than figures, in order to avoid ambiguity.

Example:
04/05/2015  means "the fourth of May 2015" in British English
   but it means "April fifth 2015" in American English
The confusion is possible with all dates between 1st and 12th of each month: from the thirteenth of the month onwards, no confusion is possible... for obvious reasons.

Written and spoken dates

Any date can be written or spoken in several different ways, using figures or a combination of figures and words.  
It is important to note that in spoken English, dates normally include the words the and of : these are not normally written.
Example:  20th May 2015
Spoken version: British or American English: The twentieth of May 2015
Spoken version: American English: May twentieth 2015, or May the twentieth 2015
Written version: British English: 20th May 2015 or 20 May 2015
Written version: American English: May twentieth 2015 or May 20 2015
Interestingly, American usage is not consistent. While American always write numerical dates using the order Month > Day > Year,  America's national holiday, Independence day, is  commonly known as '"The fourth of July" or "July Fourth"; and Oliver Stone's 1989 movie is entitled "Born on the Fourth of July".
   British speakers may also use the American form as in "May the twentieth", but when writing, the logical order Day > Month > Year  is always used.

Years
In both British and American English, years are generally expressed in spoken English as two two-digit numbers. The only exceptions are years ending in -00 to -09
Examples:
2015  Twenty fifteen
2007  Twenty oh-seven (or two thousand and seven)
2000  Two thousand
1995  Nineteen ninety-five
1776  Seventeen seventy-six
The use of "Two thousand and...." for years following 2000 was common at the start of the millennium, but has now almost been lost in British English, and is fading in American English, as Americans return to the more traditional format.

Abbreviating dates

When writing dates, it is common to abbreviate the months of the year to three letters normally followed by a full stop or period. September can be reduced to three or four letters.
Jan.   Feb.  Mar.  Apr.  May  Jun.  Jul.   Aug.  Sep. or Sept.  Oct. Nov. Dec.


Index : Numbers - cardinals Numbers - ordinals Fractions and decimals

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