Hello Students!

I am going to teach you the correct pronunciation of the number three (3) along with its many other forms such as amounts, positions and telling the time.

More from Jade Joddle

Clear accent lesson: how to pronounce the number three (3)

In today’s lesson, we are going to learn the correct pronunciation of the number three (3) and many of its associated forms.

We start with a variety of ordinal numbers (forms of a number that that tell us an amount) ranging between 3 and 3 billion. Later on, we will also cover cardinal numbers (forms of a number that tell us the position) such as third (3rd) and thirteenth (13th).

We will also look at different uses of the number three when telling the time along with related words that will help you expand your general vocabulary.

Finally, I have some really useful repeat-after-me sentences that contain the vocabulary in this lesson which you can use to practice.

How to make the “th” sound: /θ/

The number three is the most difficult to pronounce and I find that most of my students struggle with the “th” sound. Some of my students pronounce the number “thirty-three” (33) as “dirty tree” which can often be amusing.

Don’t say ‘dirty tree’

Place your tongue lightly on the back of your front teeth. You need to leave a slight gap with your lower teeth; then, as your tongue rests lightly in that gap touching the teeth, you release and blow.

The difficult thing about this sound is it takes time to develop muscle holding your tongue in that place. So, it can feel a bit strange at first. This sound is difficult because it doesn’t exist in that many of the world’s languages


Cardinal numbers – how to pronounce numbers three, thirty-three and more…

It’s important to study the following numbers with the number three. You will notice from the IPA in the table below that some of these numbers have a different first syllable. Numbers such as thirty begin with a /θɜː/ “thur” sound, like in the first syllable of “Thursday”.

It is also good to know that the larger numbers; million and billion, are pronounced with just two syllables by native English speakers. The second syllable has a /jən/ sound. In interpreted spelling, this sounds like ‘yen’ to an English native speaker.

Please refer to the video for more information on how to pronounce the following cardinal numbers.

NumberWordPronunciation (IPA)
33thirty-three/ˌθɜː.ti ˈθriː/
300three hundred/ˈθriː ˈhʌn.drəd/
3000three thousand/ˈθriː ˈθaʊ.zənd/
30,000thirty thousand/ˈθɜː.ti ˈθaʊ.zənd/
300,000three hundred thousand/ˈθriː ˈhʌn.drəd ˈθaʊ.zənd/
3,000,000three million/ˈθriː ˈmɪl.jən/
3,000,000,000three billion/ˈθriː ˈbɪl.jən/

Ordinal numbers – How to pronounce third, thirtieth and more

If you’re in a race, a running race, and you come third, that tells us your position. There were two people before you.

Please refer to the video for more information on how to pronounce the following ordinal numbers.

NumberWordPronunciation (IPA)Notes
3rdthird/θɜːd/Similar to 'word' or 'bird'
*like turn, burn, surf
33rdthirty-third/ˌθɜː.ti θɜːd/thur-tee-thurd

Telling the time

When telling the time, it is important to know that you do not need to pronounce the “PM”. But if you do, then you simply say the letters P and M.

Please refer to the video for more information on how to pronounce the following ordinal numbers.

TimeWordPronunciation (IPA)
3:00pmthree p.m./θriː ˌpiːˈem/
3:30pmthree-thirty p.m./ˈθriː ˈθɜː.ti piːˈem/

Similar words

Here are some more words that are associated with the number three. These are handy to know and give you more words to use in your vocabulary.

triple (adj)
E.g. Please may I have a triple serving of chips.

treble (adv) 
This means 3 times the amount. E.g. We played 3 games of bowling, which is treble the cost of just one game.

trinity (n)
E.g. The Holy Trinity from Christianity.

trio (n)
E.g. A trio of musicians

threesome (n)
E.g. A group of three people is a threesome. *Be careful using this word as it can have a sexual connotation.

Words to do with the number three.

Repeat after me exercises

Practice these sentences to get better at pronouncing the words from this lesson. Please refer to the video to repeat after me.

The event is on the 3rd of April.

I’m not available on Friday the 13th.

I’ll see you at 3.30pm.

We break for lunch at 13.00 hours

The car is worth £3000.

I only ate 1/3 of the pizza.

I’m in my thirties.

I’ll have three free coffees please.

More from Jade Joddle

Thank you for joining me for this lesson. You should now know how to correctly pronounce the number three in many different forms and have more words in your vocabulary. Don’t forget to like the video, comment and subscribe if you haven’t done so already.

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Jade Joddle is a speech and voice teacher for high-level professionals. She teaches her non-native speaker clients to Speak Well so that they thrive and succeed.

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