How to Say 0 in English

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!

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.