Twenty twenty-one

The way dates are said out loud is sometimes a little different to the spoken form of a simple number. Keep it short and simple.

The period around the turn of the century did indeed leave the natives a bit unsure of the best way to refer to the year numbers and created some inconsistencies. But it’s all settled down again now, to the format above. Just like it always was, with nineteen ninety-nine, ten sixty-six, eighteen oh-five and so forth.

  • It’s not two thousand and twenty-one (or two thousand twenty-one without the “and” for many Americans). That’s too long and complicated: for natural numbers, not dates.
  • Longer forms are old-fashioned and/or legal; you will occasionally see dates written out as “in the year of our Lord eighteen hundred and thirty-seven” or similar. That’s not the norm, though.
  • At the time, many native speakers did say “two thousand and eight” or “two thousand and twelve”. Retrospectively though, you’ll mostly hear e.g. twenty-twelve now (for the Olympics) and sometimes twenty oh-eight.
  • The century year itself has remained “two thousand”, though. And the sci-fi film is still called “two thousand and one”.
  • And by the way: don’t put a comma as the thousands delimiter in the numeric form. (And definitely never a dot as the thousands separator – that’s always wrong!)

The first post of the New Year! Wishing all our followers and e-mail subscribers the best – it can’t be much weirder than 2020, can it?

Prevalence: high (spoken only). Dates can come up in any kind of text, naturally.
Frequency: endemic (spoken only). Many Dutch speakers seem not to feel comfortable with the format used in the title above. But it’s what we say. Honestly.
Native: no. Barring a few variants around the year 2000 and shortly afterwards.

Published by Mike Wilkinson

Twenty years of translating and editing Dutch into English, as well as writing and publishing in English.

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