How to Say 0 in English

There are many ways of saying the #number0 in #English, and these do not include the #slang terms. Here is a short review on how and when we say #zero #nought or #nil

Spoiler alert: this is a text for all those who still believe English is simple because it has no overly developed vocabulary. To them and everybody else I suggest you take one simple item of vocabulary – the number 0 for instance – and try to think of at least three ways of saying it. Here is a hint for you: there are more than three.

Whereas zero is usually the name used for the number in English, this only begins to unravel its uses. Yes, when it comes down to Math, science or strictly numbers and figures, you are safe to say it:

One plus zero equals one.

There is a zero point one (0.1) chance the power will be cut off today.

It´s also used in a rather informal way, when you really want to emphasize the lack of something whatsoever:

I have zero interest in your excuses.

Nonetheless, in spoken English, the sound of the vowel o / əʊ / is common when saying the number 0. This usually comes down to phone or address numbers:

Put down my number: six-five-oh-three (6503)

I live at two-oh-five (205) Slumber Street.

The most interesting use by far is nought. Along with its alternative spelling naught, it means nothing and it´s used as such, as well as in expressions:

Your efforts have come to nought.

It´s also specifically used in the game of noughts and crosses we have all played at some point:

Nil is another use that comes in handy especially when talking about sports scores:

The final score was two to nil for Real Madrid.

Here we also have a slight variation for tennis, where experts usually say love to talk about scores:

45 – love (45-0) for Rafael Nadal.

for those of you who enjoy a little slang, here are some not so formal variations of the same number: zip, zilch, nada, null:

”Do you have any news from Annie?” ”No, zilch”.

And for the bookworms, this video about the origins of the word zero sums it all up nicely enough.

Happy speaking!


Author: Ruxandra Constantinescu

My every now and then jottings run on this blog in English, Spanish, and Romanian, as a tribute to all cultures I currently find myself at the crossroads of. I was born and raised in Bucharest, but I had been traveling in my mind ever since I could read. Eventually, I started doing it for real as soon as I could, so I got to study, work, live, and travel in Romania, Germany, France, and Spain. Take your pick of posts on books, travels, places, people, current social and emotional issues. International politics or current affairs are no stretch, as neither are movies, series, journalism and communication, nor teaching EFL.

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