Writing and pronunciation of the English date

(How to say and write the English date correctly)

Table of contents – writing & saying the date

On this page you will find the following:

  1. Writing the date
  2. International way of writing
  3. Saying the date
  4. Further explanations and exercises

How is the date written in British and American English?

The appearance of the date in English has particular rules, which may differ from those in other languages. In addition to that, it shows specific differences in spelling between British and American English. These two facts can sometimes be challenging for English language learners. Despite that, a general convention dictates that the names of the months are capitalised in English – like few other words (see English orthography for details). Now, consider the following distinctive characteristics and variations:

  • The usual order of writing in British English is day, month, and year:
    • 15 June 2009
    • 15th June 2009 (→ note the information below)
    • 15/06/2009 or 15/06/09
    • 15-06-2009 or 15-06-09
    • Give it a try: exercise on the British spelling of the date
  • In American English, however, it is common to write the month first, then the day, and finally the year:
    • June 15, 2009
    • June 15th, 2009 (→ also consider the information below)
    • 06/15/2009 or 06/15/09
    • 06-15-2009 or 06-15-09
    • Give it a try: exercise on the American spelling of the date

Information: Even if you can still see it now and then, it is no longer usual to write the abbreviations ‘1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th,’ etc., especially in formal correspondence – but they are still spoken (as explained in the section below). Furthermore, it is advisable to write out the month as a word to avoid confusion. Again, note the capitalisation of the month:

  • When the date is written in a sentence, the preposition ‘on’ comes before it:
    • “He sent me the letter on 12 January 2016.”
  • If only the year is mentioned, the preposition ‘inprecedes it:
    • In 2013, Peter and his wife bought a new house.”

International spelling of the date

Following the international spelling of the date according to the international standard ISO8601 and the European standard EN28601, the year is written first, then the month, and finally, the day, separated by hyphens. Compare these example dates:

  • 2011-06-15consequently corresponds to 15 June 2011 or June 15, 2011
  • 2007-12-23corresponds to 23 December 2007 or December 23, 2007

By using this date format, it can be ensured that, even internationally, there is no confusion of the month and day.

How is the date pronounced in English?

Even if the ordinal numbers (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc.) are not used anymore in the English spelling of the date (considering the rule above-mentioned), they are still pronounced. As a result, the following discrepancies between writing and pronouncing exist:

  • Pronunciation in a general context:
    • July 16, 2009Say: ‘… sixteenth …’ (not: sixteen!)
    • 22nd April 1983Say: ‘… twenty-second …’ (not: twenty-two!)
    • 22 April 1994Say: ‘… twenty-second …’ (not: twenty-two!)
    • October 5, 2015Say: ‘… fifth …’ (not: five!)
  • If the date appears in the context of a sentence (as explained above), the article ‘the’ and the preposition ‘of’ are additionally spoken but not written:
    • “We received your offer on 6 May 2014.”
      • Say: “… on the sixth of May 2014.”
    • “We mailed the letter on 3 April 2008.”
      • Say: “… on the third of April 2008.”

Further explanations related to the ‘Spelling and pronunciation of the English date’

The following explanations refer to the topic ‘How to say and write the English date’ and may be interesting as well:

  • The year in English
  • Telling the time in English
  • Day times and mealtimes in English
  • Exercise 1: English date (British and American)
  • Exercise 2: English date (British and American)