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.

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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

Pronounce /θ/
Pronounce ‘three’ /θriː/

Cardinal numbers – how to pronounce numbers 3, 33 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.

The table below shows the IPA transcription of the ordinal numbers that are to do with the number three. To hear the pronunciation click HERE.

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

The table below shows the IPA transcription of the ordinal numbers that are to do with the number three. To hear the pronunciation click HERE.

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

The table below shows the IPA transcription for telling the time with the number three. To hear the pronunciation click HERE.

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.

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.

Extend Your Learning

◼️ Watch my lesson on th Pronunciation

◼️ Watch my lesson on ‘How to Pronounce ‘a’, ‘an’, ‘the’ and ‘some’ | Weak Forms’

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Jade Joddle grows your confidence and skill to shine when speaking English.

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