The toy is forty-two dollars.


The toy is forty two dollars.

Do I always need to put a hyphen in double figures? Is there any rule regulating that?


"Need" and "Rule" doesn't really apply to a natural language. There's no law. Native speakers sometimes hyphenate and sometimes don't.

As a learner, you should hyphenate "forty-two" as it binds it into a single word, and avoids some possible ambiguities such as:

I have forty five dollar bills

(Does that mean 45 one-dollar bills or 40 five-dollar bills?)

Also, some style guides insist on always using a hyphen.

  • Should explain my -1. First, if "need" and "rule" don't apply to natural languages, what are we doing on ELLSE? Second, the average native speaker's level of familiarity with written grammar is a moot point here. Third, there shouldn't be one set of guidelines for native speakers ("don't worry about the hyphen") and a different set of guidelines for new learners ("you should use hyphens"). Finally, is English a fully natural language? There are enough language controls to suggest it's not. A really good reason to use the '-' is to distinguish forty-two dollar bills from forty two-dollar bills. – urnonav Apr 12 '18 at 13:41
  • Thanks for your explanation. Allow me to respond: We are advising learners on good English. We are not setting rules. Having advice for learners is important. I've given my advice (that I'd give to native as well as learners) "hyphenate forty-two". But a learner should understand that there is variation in use. This isn't a "rule" but a description of what I judge to be good English. Finally, English is a fully natural language, whose grammar is defined by its users. There is no authority that defines English. There are only guides. There are no rules, except those inferred by observation. – James K Apr 12 '18 at 13:53
  • 1
    Thanks. If you remove the dangling modifier "as a learner", I will switch my vote to +1 instead. About whether English is a natural language, we will probably disagree on the semantics of things. I see existence of large volumes of dictionaries, style guides and editorial notes, in addition to language-driven standards/laws, as signs of a "controlled" language. – urnonav Apr 12 '18 at 14:04

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