# saying / reading phone numbers

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Morning, Apr 4, 2009.

1. ### MorningSenior Member

Spanish
I know that when there are 2 repeated numbers in a telephone number we say: example= 2344578: two, three, DOUBLE FOUR, five, seven , eight.

But how is it read when there are 3 repeated numbers: example: 23444578: Do we say: two, three, TRIPLE FOUR, five, seven, eight.
or:
two, three, DOUBLE FOUR, FOUR, seven, eight.
or:
two, three, FOUR, FOUR, FOUR, seven, eight.

I'll appreciate some answers very much . Because someone has asked me and I really never have thought about how do we say when it's repeated 3 times a number in a phone number.

Last edited: Apr 4, 2009
2. ### mplsraySenior Member

I would repeat the number except, in the case of a US number such as 555-2000 where the triple-0's appear as part of the four-number segment of the number, I would say "thousand" instead of "oh, oh, oh" or "zero, zero, zero."

3. ### MorningSenior Member

Spanish
So the correct way is read each number individually?
It's not correct to say: two, three, TRIPLE FOUR, five, seven, eight.
or :
two, three, DOUBLE FOUR, FOUR, seven, eight.

4. ### mplsraySenior Member

As I said, I would not. Please note that my experience is with US phone numbers, which have the format (XXX) XXX-XXXX. The two three-number segments (the first is an area code and is often omitted) and the one four-number segment are pronounced as separate entities. A local number of the form 555-5432 might be pronounced"five, five, five, (pause) five, four, three, two" or "five fifty-five, (pause) fifty-four thirty-two," but it would never be pronounced "fifty-five, fifty-five, four thirty-two" or "fifty-five, fifty-five four hundred thirty-two."

Presumably, where telephone numbers take other formats, English speakers follow other rules.

5. ### natkretepModerato con anima (English Only)

Singapore
English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
In most English-speaking parts of the world, a seven-digit number is broken up in 3 digits + 4 digits (and the final 4 also into 2 + 2). Therefore 2344578 becomes 234 4578, and we would NOT say 'double 4' there: two-three-four (pause) four-five-seven-eight. For a number like 234 3556 I would also not say 'double five' (because it straddles the last two pairs), but for 234 5536 or 234 3655, I would say 'double five'.

In any case, there is no obligation to say 'double'. You could always say 'five five' for the last example.

In some places (London, Australia, etc.) there are eight-digit numbers, which would be split up to 4 and 4. So, a London number 020 7208 8800 would be read '... eight (pause) double eight double oh'. It's also always in pairs for a Paris phone number.

6. ### BriocheSenior Member

Australia English

It's perfectly ok to say "triple four". But "double 4 - 4" sounds quite wrong to me.

The companies like to group the digits to make the stand out or be easy to remember.

So 131313 would probably be advertised as thirteen-thirteen-thirteen.

133233 could be one - double three - two - double three.

133322 could be one - triple three - double two or thirteen - 33 -22

1300977773 could be thirteen hundred - nine - double 7 - double 7 - 3. or

1800050000 could be one - eight hundred - oh - 5 - oh - triple oh.

7. ### sdgrahamSenior Member

Oregon, USA
USA English
My exeperience is that "double" with respect to phone numbers is far more common in the BE world than AE.

And because I'm hopelessly pedantic at times, I say "zero," which is a digit, rather than "oh," which is an alphabetic character (despite the popularity of double-oh seven, which is a fictional character)

8. ### spiralsSenior Member

English - England
In BE it is quite common, normally I would say double or triple. Saying "four - four" sounds clumsy to me.

For example, Radio 1 in the UK use the number 81111 to text in, which is said 8 - double 1 - double 1.

9. ### GreenWhiteBlueSenior Member

New York
USA - English
We have here another BE/AE difference. For my part (since what I speak is American English), I would never say "double four" or "triple three" or the like, and not only would I find it highly unusual and a little confusing to hear a telephone number read as "two double four six", but it would also take my mind an additional moment to understand what number was being read in such an unusual way.

I would therefore recommend, Morning, that you do not use "double x" or "triple y" at all when giving telephone numbers in English. Everyone from all nations will understand you if you read each digit separately.

10. ### panjandrum<<PongoMod>> EO'Moderator

Belfast, Ireland
English-Ireland (top end)
Our phone number has 11 digits, or 8 digits, or if using the old number format, 6 digits.

Three of them are 666

For the sake of discussion I'll invent the rest:
012 3466 6578

I always read the area code (first three) then the rest in two blocks of four.
I read the three sixes as six, six, six.
Even when we only needed the last six digits I always read them as six six six five seven eight.

MrsP, on the other hand, always reads them as "treble six", not "triple six".

Is there a "right" way?
I don't know.

11. ### JulianStuartSenior Member

Sonoma County CA
English (UK then US)
Definitely a BE / AE thing, yet again showing how often the "What I'm used to sounds right, and what I've not heard before sounds weird!" principle applies On occasion, you will also hear "treble eight" as an alternative to "triple eight".

Morning, GWB's advice is sound but you should still get accustomed to the BE way if you plan to visit GBR often. It seems to me , whenever I visit, that the format for the phone numbers has not yet been standardized like it is in the US.

12. ### MikeLynnSenior Member

Hi, not being a native speaker, I'm no authority here, but I do believe that reading the individual numbers as they follow is probably the safest way . I remember talking to a German guy on the phone, years ago, and he started something like: three hundred fifty five... And it did take me a while to realize it was probably a phone number, so I had to ask him and make him repeat it. In Czech there's something similar, but it "makes no sense" in English.
M&L

Last edited: Apr 4, 2009
13. ### MorningSenior Member

Spanish
O.K. Thank you very much to all of you for your help.

14. ### AlxmrphiSenior Member

Reykjavík, Ísland
UK English
Ok, can I just say at least in England there is not just one way to do it, we should stay away from stuff like "the correct way" or "the BE way"

I read numbers a few different ways, landlines usually 0151-(area code) 123-4567 and split it up like that, as has been suggested, but if it's a mobile number, or an area code with more than 4 digits (e.g. Stoke-on-trent 01782) then I just usually start talking and see what comes out..

15. ### AnotherCohenNew Member

London
English - UK
it's Two, three, TRIPLE FOUR, seven,eight

16. ### FranziSenior Member

Astoria, NY
(San Francisco) English
I can read numbers a few different ways. Here's an example US phone number: 202-555-3542

I would pronounce each of the parts in the following ways:

202: "Two oh two" (or, less commonly, "Two zero two")
555: "Five five five"
3542: "Three five four two" or "Thirty-five forty-two"

I don't hear much variation among AE speakers in how the first two parts of the number are treated.

17. ### PackardSenior Member

USA, English
A couple of points:

Originally, in the USA, the first three digits were represented by two letters plus one number (but never a zero).

So you had a number that was Ludlow-8-8868 (LU8-8868)
or Ivanhoe-8-9468 (IV-8-9468), so old timers like me will only use the "double" phrasing on the last 4 digits as it messes up the cadence if you use it on the first 3 digits.

At work our number ends with -2400.

I always phrase that as "two-four hundred".

A co-worker phrases it as "twenty-four hundred".

I think the "right" way is the one that is most easily understood over the phone. Any other measure seems irrelevant to me.

18. ### JulianStuartSenior Member

Sonoma County CA
English (UK then US)
Just to close the loop,

"Any way that might ever be misunderstood is definitely wrong/incorrect/bad/eugghhh "

19. ### Thomas TompionSenior Member

Southwest France
English - England
There are two points just worth making, perhaps:

1. When reading phone numbers which have a group of six numbers, any musician will be familiar with the idea of reading them in two groups of three (6/8) - ONE, two, three, FOUR, five, six, or three groups of two (3/4) - ONE, two, THREE, four, FIVE, six. I lived for twenty years in a city where all the numbers after the area code had six digits, and I found that people differed over where they put the stresses. I used to remember my number in 6/8 and had trouble recognising it if someone repeated it to me in 3/4.

This is an important consideration for people whose aural memory is strong. Clearly any double-this or treble-that would break such habitual rhythms, and cause problems of recognition; not very grave ones, but nevertheless...

2. Some foreign phone systems break the number using full-stops. The French system is a good example of this: every number has ten digits grouped into five groups of two, thus: 01.23.45.67.89 which is spoken Zero-one, twenty-three, forty-five, sixty-seven, eighty-nine. Ringing from the UK, the number becomes - 00.33.123.45.67.89. I say in English, double-zero, double-three, a hundred and twenty three, forty-five, sixty-seven, eighty-nine. Very often people checking the number back with me say double-zero, double-three, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, and I've little idea if it's correct or not, because my number doesn't follow sequentially like that, and I hear it as I speak it.

Moral: when using foreign numbers in English, try to observe the patterns used in dictating the numbers to you when you read them back. It's probably a good rule for all numbers because the way someone gives his number to you is the way he hears it in his mind's ear, and that is something you should respect.

UK
English.
Hi Morning.

There are as many correct ways to to vocalize phone numbers as there are people with telephonic equipment.

One can say this in any way that one wants to.

There are really no regional rules; any coherent construction would be understood anywhere in the English speaking word.

21. ### panjandrum<<PongoMod>> EO'Moderator

Belfast, Ireland
English-Ireland (top end)
When reading out numbers to an unknown listener, the safest method is to read the digits one by one in an even cadence.
Any attempts at double six, or triple four, are likely to cause confusion.

22. ### WordsmythSenior Member

Location: Mostly SW France
Native language: English (BrE)
Some say that there are no rules, and in principle I heartily agree. I usually break phone numbers into memorable groups, regardless of how many in each group, and in the English-speaking world that seems to work.

However, Thomas Tompion's advice (post #19) is very valid. In some countries with a rigid pattern, people can't cope with any divergence from it. I had an office number in France with the last six digits 971972. I always gave it to English-speakers as "nine-seven-one, nine-seven-two", but the equivalent in French (or even saying it in English to a French listener) was met with blank looks. So it had to be "ninety-seven, nineteen, seventy-two" (really memorable, huh?).

Said in French (and now I back-translate word for word) the number becomes "four twenties ten seven, ten nine, sixty twelve" ... which it be might be tempting to write as 4201071096012, except that you don't, because you know that French numbers are always grouped in pairs, each pair being a number from zerozero to ninety-nine — and you wait for the pause before attempting to write anything down.

Probably the safest approach (as panj suggests) is to quote numbers slowly as a sequence of single digits, but if you're speaking to someone from a country with a rigid 'rule' (or to ThomasT !), explain first that that's what you're going to do!

Ws

23. ### Jean-Michel CarrèreSenior Member

French from France
Hello everyone,

When reading a phone number starting with the + sign, is " + " pronounced "plus" ?

My question may sound strange to you, but I need to know for sure.

Thank you.

24. ### PaulQSenior Member

UK
English - England
That is the way I say it. If you and I met in France and I were to give you my 'phone number, I would write +44(0)1727-887691 and say,

"It is plus forty-four, one/seven/two/seven, double eight/seven, six/nine/one. Of course, if you are in the UK, drop the 'plus forty-four and substitute zero."

where (i) the commas represent clear pauses and the / the natural break between words and (ii) plus forty-four is the international dialling code for the UK.

25. ### Jean-Michel CarrèreSenior Member

French from France
Thank you, Paul.

26. ### WordsmythSenior Member

Location: Mostly SW France
Native language: English (BrE)
Of course, if/when the whole world adopts a standard international access code (00 might be a good idea ), the "plus" will be redundant.

Ws

Washington, DC
English - (Minnesota)
Until I began printing business cards, I would develop a recitation for my telephone number that was easy to remember. E.g., 5276 as "fifty-two seventy-six," or 0330 as "zero trois trente." Now, I don't bother - I just hand someone my card.

28. ### PackardSenior Member

USA, English
I catch heat in my office for saying, "three, seven, five, oh, four hundred." For that same reason. But it is erroneous. "Oh" is an accepted use for "zero" according to most dictionaries.

The primary goal when reading aloud a phone number is to make sure that the person on the other end of the line understands the number accurately. To that end you should never read the number faster than someone can write, and not use a format that would confuse the listener.

I never hear the "double four" or "triple three" or any of those type phrases used. I hear "hundred" and "thousand" used when appropriate. So if it is common in Australia to use "double four", then go ahead and do so. I don't think it is common in the USA to do so and I would avoid it in the USA as it might invite errors.

29. ### MikeLynnSenior Member

Hi Packard, I have heard Americans reading phone numbers, aloud, quite a few times. Of course, I'm not a native speaker, but I'd still like to ask a question: is it common that phone numbers, or their parts. that resemble years are different?
just to make this a bit easier to understand, let me give you a few examples:
73i 10 20 the end numbers read as ten twenty (my former number, BTW) or
555 17 20 the end numbers are read as seventeen twenty (similar to a year)
Oh for zero seems to be a bit tricky, especially when the connection and the resulting sound are lousy and all those double XX or even triple or quadruple XXX(X), sound a bit unusual. There is obviously some AE / BE difference, but what do you think about these "year-like" parts of the phone numbers? Thank you for your input and if anyone else has something to say, you contributions will be highly appreciated M&L

30. ### WordsmythSenior Member

Location: Mostly SW France
Native language: English (BrE)
I've never heard anyone say "quadruple ..." in a phone number. But it's fairly common BE practice to say, for example, "double three, double three" for 3333.

As for reading phone numbers like years, it could be done (and probably is), but there's a risk of being misheard. In your example of 1720, seventeen could be misheard as seventy. Even worse with, say, 4041: if you said "forty forty one", I might hear "forty for..." as 44, or "forty forty..." as 4040 — until you continued, but then my brain would have to backtrack to try to get what you really meant.

By far the best way of avoiding such confusion, at least among English-speakers, is (as panj said in #21) to give the number as single digits, with a slight pause between each one.

Ws

31. ### natkretepModerato con anima (English Only)

Singapore
English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
Yes, say the plus. Paul's version is fine, as is plus four four. Don't say plus double four. (I've never heard this before, although I'm used to 'double such-and-such' for the rest of the phone number.)
That won't happen: you can key in the <+> symbol when using the mobile phone, so the <+> can be used in dialling.

32. ### MikeLynnSenior Member

Thank you Wordsmyth for your post. I usually go for single digits as it is the safest way and zeros instead of ohs as they are hard to miss. I was just trying to learn a bit more about other possibilities that would be acceptable and idiomatic. I remember that, years ago, I was on the phone with a German businessperson whose English was pretty good. However, when he was giving me their contact phone number, he used, probably, the German way which seems to be similar to the Czech one and said the number as broken up into hundred-clusters: 777 as seven hundred seventy-seven and by the time I realized it was a phone number, it was over and I had to ask him to repeat it M&L

33. ### WordsmythSenior Member

Location: Mostly SW France
Native language: English (BrE)
I learn something new every day! — but then almost all my international calls are from my landline (free worldwide), because they'd cost a fortune from my mobile. But next time I'm roaming, I'll try the "+" instead of the exit code from the country I'm in.

So OK, as you say, I guess the "+" is here to stay. And in that case, website designers need to recognise that. Many phone-number fields won't accept "+" because it's not a number.

Ws

34. ### RM1(SS)Senior Member

Connecticut
English - US (Midwest)
At the store where I work, items have five-digit stock numbers; if the leading digit is a 0 it can be omitted. One man always confused me by not using single digits - if he says "fifty three forty two," does he mean 50342, 53402, or 05342?

This is the reason that numbers are always read off as single digits (with '0' pronounced "zero") in the Navy, and presumably in the other armed forces. (I speak only for the US, of course.) The only exceptions are numbers ending in 00 or 000, when "hundred" and "thousand" are used. (330 = Three three zero. 3300 = Three three hundred. 33000 = Three three thousand. 330000 = three three zero thousand.)

35. ### natkretepModerato con anima (English Only)

Singapore
English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
Surely the intonation and pause placement would give the information?

If I meant 05342, he would say 'fifty-three' (falling tone on 'three', no pause before 'three'), 'forty-two' (similar falling tone and lack of pause).
If I meant 50342, he would say 'fifty' (falling tone, and slight pause), 'three forty-two' (no pause within).

Having said that, I would not normally say things like 'twenty-seven' or 'fifty-two'. The exception would be if there was a phone number like 203060, where I suppose I might say 'twenty' (pause) 'thirty' (pause) 'sixty', but it may be more likely that I should say 'two oh three oh six oh'.

36. ### RM1(SS)Senior Member

Connecticut
English - US (Midwest)
Unfortunately, no. He just said the numbers straight off, without breaks, the same way I would read the five individual digits.

37. ### natkretepModerato con anima (English Only)

Singapore
English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
I would understand that to mean 05342.

38. ### grace2010Member

Cinese

Hello,

I want to know how to read the same continous numbers in English.
e.g: How to read 156412000,156412222,156411111, 156444444...or even more 4s?
Thanks a lot!

Last edited by a moderator: Oct 30, 2014
39. ### natkretepModerato con anima (English Only)

Singapore
English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
Grace, we'd generally break up the phone number into the STD code. If the phone number after that is six digits or less, it is left as one block. 7-digit numbers are generally broken into groups of 3 and 4. 8-digit numbers into 4 and 4.

If your first number is 156-412000, I might say 'one five six, four one two, triple oh' or '... four one, two thousand' (the commas indicate little pauses).

40. ### Dunno123Senior Member

Slovak
How would you read a phone number with lots of 0's?

For example 07412000003? I would appreciate answers especially from British English speakers.

41. ### natkretepModerato con anima (English Only)

Singapore
English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
I'd ask the same question as above. How is this split up. Is it 0741-200 0003? If so, it would be oh seven four one, two hundred, double-oh oh three.

42. ### EdinburgherSenior Member

Scotland
German/English bilingual
This is a UK mobile number. They all start with 07, and more often than not they will be grouped as 5+3+3, which is really 3+3+3 with 07 tacked on the front of the first group.
I would tend to use "double" only within groups of four, but might make an exception here. I'd avoid juxtaposing 'oh's, so some of them will become zero.
I might go for: Oh-seven-four-one-two, zero-zero-zero, double-oh-three. Possibly even ... double-oh-zero, double-oh-three.

43. ### Dunno123Senior Member

Slovak
Thank you for your answer. I don't really know how it's split up, but you made it clear to me.

I am still wondering though, if you were to read a long number that's not split up in any way - reference number, order number or a long phone number in a strange format with no splits (not to be off topic!) - and there were seven 0's in a row, how would you read it? For example: 545000000062506.

Thank you very much!

44. ### GlenfarclasSenior Member

Chicago
English (American)
Either I would count them first and then tell the person "five four five, and then there are seven zeros in a row, and then six two...", or else I would read them in pairs, something like this: "Five four five, zero-zero, zero-zero, zero-zero, zero six, two five zero six." Or maybe in groups of three, it doesn't really matter. As long as you go slowly enough and speak clearly enough that the other person will not be confused.

45. ### EdinburgherSenior Member

Scotland
German/English bilingual
Then I would work out my own split on the spur of the moment, grouping either into threes or fours as seems convenient.

46. ### WordsmythSenior Member

Location: Mostly SW France
Native language: English (BrE)
I'd go with something like Glen's first suggestion: "five four five, and then there are seven zeros, and then six two five zero six" (I probably wouldn't add "in a row").

Then I'd re-read the whole number, as a check, as individual digits in groups of three, with a significant pause between groups.

Ws