How to Pronounce Numbers in English

How to Pronounce Numbers in English

What do you think are some of the most critical and important words to learn to pronounce? No, not sports teams and celebrity names! Numbers are actually some trickiest and often overlooked words that we use every single day. Knowing how to pronounce basic numbers will allow you to talk about everything from scheduling to finances. Today we will cover the numbers 1-10 (one through ten), and we will cover how to pronounce larger numbers in American English in future lessons.

1 – One /wun/

We’ve got to start somewhere, so it might as well be with the number one! Many non-native speakers have a tendency to mispronounce one, because it isn’t spelled like it sounds. In fact, it is pronounced exactly the same as the word ‘won’ and rhymes with the word ‘fun.’ Start by bringing your lips close together to make the ‘ww’ sound, then make a closed syllable ‘un’ sound. Make sure to remember, the ‘E’ is silent here, and don’t pronounce it like the shorter and very similar word ‘on!’

2 – Two /tew/

This is one of those tricky little words that can make American English seem so strange for new students. Like the number ‘one’, the number ‘two’ is also pronounced differently than its spelling would have you think. The key here is to not pronounce the ‘W’ – because it is silent.  Instead, ‘wo’ takes on the ‘ew’ sound. Raise your tongue to the roof of your mouth to make the ‘T’ sound, then bring your lips forward to make the ‘ew’ sound. ‘Two’ is pronounced exactly the same as the word ‘too’ and rhymes with ‘blue’ and ‘shoe.’

3 – Three /three/

It’s important to remember your ‘th’ pronunciation here! Bring the tip of your tongue to your front teeth to make the ‘th’ sound, then quickly transition into an ‘r’ sound, followed by an open syllable ‘ee’ sound. Try repeating it a few times to get the hang of it. ‘Three’. The number ‘three’ is one of the hardest numbers to pronounce due to the ‘thr’ consonant combination, which isn’t found in many commonly spoken languages such as the Romance Languages. Many new students make the mistake of pronouncing ‘three’ like ‘tree’ without making the ‘th’ sound. Don’t be one of them! We cover in much more depth how to make the ‘th’ sound properly in our full English Pronunciation course which you can register for here.

4 – Four /for/

The number ‘four’ should be one of the easier numbers between 1 and 10. Why? Because it’s pronounced exactly like the word ‘for’. While it means something entirely different, there is not one difference between the pronunciations of the two words. Make sure you don’t say ‘fower’ because the ‘ou’ take on the very basic ‘or’ sound which also rhymes with ‘oar.’

5 – Five /fiv/

The key to pronouncing the number ‘five’ properly in American English is all in the ‘I’ which rhymes with the word ‘eye.’ After making the ‘F’ sound by bringing your upper teeth to your lower lip, make sure you pronounce the ‘I’ as an open syllable. Make the exact same sound as if your were saying the letter by itself, ‘I’. To finish the word, pronounce the ‘V’ properly by again bringing your teeth to your lower lip, but this time use your throat to get the ‘V’ sound. Again, the ‘E’ here is silent.

You might have heard the term ‘high five’ before, but did you know that who invented the ‘high five’ is still a mystery? If you want to learn more about the history behind one of the most popular gestures of celebration and greeting in the United States, give this ESPN story a read!

6 – Six /sihks/

The number ‘six’ is one of those words that is short, but can be tricky for some non-native speakers. The ‘I’ is a closed syllable here, so pronounce it like the word ‘fix’ with an ‘ih’ sound. One of the most common mistakes to look out for with ‘six’ is pronouncing the ‘i’ like an ‘ee.’ Knowing when ‘i’ sounds like (ih, eye, and ee) is another topic we cover very closely in our English Pronunciation Course.

7 – Seven /seh-vin/

Seven is said to be a lucky number in the United States which is why many people love it,so I recommend practicing until you have mastered its pronunciation. One easy trick to pronouncing ‘seven’ is knowing that it rhymes with ‘heaven’, only replace the ‘H’ with an ‘S’. Both ‘E’s are closed syllable here.

8 – Eight /ayt/

On paper, the number ‘eight’ is a very confusing and counter-intuitive word to pronounce for non-native English speakers. Here’s my advice: forget the letters E, I, G and H. ‘Eight’ is pronounced exactly the same as the word ‘ate.’ Started with an open syllable ‘ay’ sound and end with ‘t.’ Try practicing it a few times now to get the hang of it: eight (pronounced ayt).

9- Nine /nin/

We’re almost to ten! Nine is one of the simpler numbers to pronounce. Just remember that the ‘i’ makes an open syllable ‘eye’ sound and the ‘e’ is silent. Make a point of really engaging and opening your jaw as you pronounce the ‘i’. Try dropping your lower jaw a bit as you say it – this will allow you to make a more authentic ‘i’ sound. Say it with me now, ‘nine’.

10- Ten /tehn/

In order to master the number ‘ten’, make an effort to distinguish the ‘eh’ sound and don’t say ‘tin’ or ‘ton.’ One tip to remember is that to pronounce the ‘e’ you will need to open your mouth slightly more and almost make a smile, like when you say the words ‘end’ and ‘den.’ A good trick to differentiate between the pronunciations of the words ‘ten’ and ‘tin’ is practice saying the words in alternate fashion. For example, try pronouncing ‘ten’ then ‘tin’, and repeat as many times as needed. After a few rounds, you should be able to hear the difference between the ‘e’ and ‘i’.

OK that does it for the numbers one through ten. See you soon!



Ms Jennings is an instructor at American English University. She has worked with students from all across the world and specializes in English pronunciation, accent reduction, and American accent training.