0

I read somewhere that the day precedes the month in British English, as in "John arrived on 5 December." But is it ok to write "on December 5" in British English? I seem to have seen the Independent adopt this practice, but I'm not sure.

I'd appreciate your help.

2

The expression of dates tends to be a matter of style, and I would agree that British English generally adopts the convention of putting the date before the month, as does the Cambridge Dictionary online. Although, note that it does allow for: "The grand opening is on 1st June. or … on June 1st."

  • Do you know why "the" is in "Today is the 7th September" but not in "The grand opening is on 1st June" on the Cambridge Dictionary online? – Apollyon Dec 16 '17 at 11:47
  • @Apollyon My understanding is that it's just an optionally implicit term: "The grand opening is on [the] first [of] June.", and personal style is all the determines whether you include either of those words or not. – Bilkokuya Jun 7 '18 at 12:38
2

When we write the date we always write the day first:

7th June 2018, or 7/6/2018

And when spoken we normally say the day first:

The seventh of June.

However there are some exceptions where it can be normal to hear them spoken the other way around. When we do though, we nearly always prefix the day with "the" and include the ordinal indicator, which I notice Americans do not. It seems to be more common when referring to specific dates, such as holidays, eg:

"November the 5th" (Guy Fawkes night in the UK)

"December the 25th" (Christmas day)

To be clear these are not exceptions to any rule, just occasions where I, as a native British English speaker have noted that for some reason some quote the month first. You can see Guy Fawkes night rendered as "November the fifth" in this article from British newspaper The Guardian and also in this Oxford reference article.

If I was to guess at a reason why we normally say the day first it would be that this is considered to be the most pertinent part of the date. It is often assumed that one knows which month it is, and when someone asks for the date it is not unusual for the reply to simply be "the sixth!"

  • (This may be off-topic chatty) November the 5th is one of the few I'd have expected to see the other way - simply because of the rhyme "remember, remember, the 5th of November, gunpowder, treason, and plot". It definitely feels like no part of English speaking society has ever agreed on how dates were meant to work. – Bilkokuya Jun 7 '18 at 12:42
  • @Bilkokuya I'm aware of the rhyme too and I wasn't saying it is always said that way - both seem to be used. I have added some quotations to my answer that may surprise you. – Astralbee Jun 7 '18 at 12:47
  • 1
    Absolutely, I just thought it was an odd/interesting thing - that even with rhymes like that, individually we each have different dates we associate with a certain word order. (Wasn't trying to suggest anything was wrong!) – Bilkokuya Jun 7 '18 at 12:48

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.