I DIG ENGLISH - just a cool blog about English

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half as much as I enjoy writing it for you.
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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

How Do I say It in English: Dates


How did you ring in the New Year 2012? I hope you did it in style.... :)

Today I would like to talk about dates for a bit. And I know what you are going to say either: “Thanks, but no thanks, Karolina;” or “Thank you, Captain Obvious.” But I still hope some of you will benefit from reading today's post.

You have probably heard that the British and Americans write their dates differently. I've been presented with the following patterns when it comes to writing dates:


January 1, 2012 (please make a note of the comma)


1(st) January 2012

I've decided to compare the patterns I know against data I can find on the internet. Here are the results:


edition.CNN.com – CNN

January 3, 2012

europe.wsj.com – World Street Journal

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

USAToday.com – USA Today


NYTimes.com – New York Times

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


Tuesday, January 3


BBC.co.uk – BBC

3 January 2012

Telegraph.co.uk – the Daily Telegraph

Tuesday 03 January 2012

Guardian.co.uk – Guardian

Tuesday 3 January 2012

HeraldScotland.com – Herald

Tuesday 3 January 2012

WalesOnline.co.uk – Western Mail (Wales)

3 January 2012

Economist.com – the Economist

Jan 3rd 2012

And here are the conclusions:

  • Americans write dates according to the /MM/DD/YY/ format.
  • The British write dates according to the /DD/MM/YY/ format.
  • Therefore, to be on the safe side, it is better to write the name of the month in full (or write the short version e.g. Jan, Feb etc.)
  • It is nowadays common to skip ordinal abbreviations: 'st', 'nd', 'rd' and 'th', when writing dates.
  • Commas are used by Americans and don't seem to be used by the British.

I've also asked native speakers how they say dates. The British use two forms. Some of them show preference for form (1), which follows the order in the written pattern.

(1) the third of January,
(2) January the third,

whereas Americans will say

(1) January third (most often),
(2) January the third,

and sometimes 

(3) the third of January.

There's one more issue left. How do we say “2012”? Some internet users solved this problem two years ago:

Is it

2010 two thousand (and) ten OR twenty ten
2011 two thousand (and) eleven OR twenty eleven
2012 two thousand (and) twelve OR twenty twelve ?


(AND it is actually for the speaker to decide.)

And just in case, the remaining patterns:

1400 fourteen hundred
1900 nineteen hundred

1409 fourteen oh nine
1901 nineteen oh one

1810 eighteen ten
1999 nineteen ninety-nine

2000 two thousand
2001 two thousand (and) one
2009 two thousand (and) nine

Oh, and most importantly,

Happy New Year 2012!!!!!!


to ring in the New Year – powitać Nowy Rok (dzwonami)
for a bit – przez chwilę
Captain Obviousa sarcastic name for someone who states the obvious; obvious – oczywisty
to benefit from – skorzystać z czegoś
to make a note of something – zapamiętać, zapisać (to write something down or remember it carefully)
a comma – przecinek
a pattern – wzór (a particular way in which something is done, organized or happens)
data – dane
to be on the safe side – na wszelki wypadek
to skip – opuszczać, omijać
an ordinal (number) – (liczba) porządkowa
an abbreviation – skrót
to follow the order – tut. odzwierciedlać kolejność
an issue – kwestia
just in case – na wszelki wypadek
remaining – pozostałe
and most importantly – a co najważniejsze

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