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added by User74101, February 27, 2021
edited by AlanF_US, April 3, 2021
From a British perspective, I have never heard long scale numbers used in English as far as I'm aware. I think I was taught in school that they existed, but if they were common at all then in the 90s/00s in Britain, then they are not now. I know that Americans also use the short scale, and I think old parts of the British Empire (Aus, NZ etc) switched to the short scale around the same time as the UK, but I don't know about every day conversation or other dialects.
See here how the term 'milliard' (long scale term for a short scale billion) decreased drastically in British English in the latter half of the 20th century to almost no usage now:
Thanks for your comment. I have seen someone write "one thousand millions" instead of "one billion" on a website in 21st century. That confused me.
Unusual but not unheard of. It would be normal to say a thousand million if you had been talking about numbers in the hundreds of millions to maintain the scale and the flow. All that whilst still using the short scale.
I suppose it's similar to saying 'fifteen hundred'. If you say that it doesn't mean that you don't still think 1,500 is 'one thousand five hundred' as well.
I think "a thousand million" is sometimes used to avoid precisely this kind of confusion: "a billion" can mean either 10⁹ (short scale) or 10¹² (long scale), but "a thousand million" is unambiguous. "A milliard" is also unambiguous, but it is no longer used.
The use of the two scales is one of the weirdest things on earth. When I came across it for the first time, it felt like someone told me that "hundred" isn't "hundert" but "zehn".
> The use of the two scales is one of the weirdest things on earth.
I felt the same when I realised contemporary English speakers thought the way their grand-parents used punctuation was all wrong...
>The use of the two scales is one of the weirdest things on earth. When I came across it for the first time, it felt like someone told me that "hundred" isn't "hundert" but "zehn".
I can quite imagine that it's hard for non-native English speakers to adjust. It's pretty easy the other way around because 10¹² is such a large number that it's hardly ever used in most contexts, and it's pretty easy to just say a language's equivalent of 'a thousand million'.
>I felt the same when I realised contemporary English speakers thought the way their grand-parents used punctuation was all wrong...
Perhaps interestingly, the English short scale number system comes from French, but France officially switched back to the long scale system about the same time as the UK et al. switched towards the short scale system. I think one could fairly safely say now that using the short scale in France and the long scale in Britain would be considered wrong by perhaps all but the oldest speakers who might think it right, but interpret it wrong anyway because they're not expecting anyone to use the old system.
> I can't understand if they use long scale or short scale when someone talks about big numbers in English. If you want to help me understand, please comment under this sentence.
Regarding the sentence, as opposed to the question, I think it would be better worded as follows:
When someone talks about big numbers in English, I can't understand whether they are using long scale or short scale. If you want to help me understand, please comment under this sentence.