There is another common business type of partnership 51% / 49%.

Would it be correct to say “to” instead of the slash sign while speaking, like:

51% to 49%

If “to” is wrong, please correct me.

5 Answers 5


Symbols should always be pronounced to denote their intended meaning. For example, the ampersand symbol (&) means "and", and so is pronounced that way:

eg "Smith & Jones" would be read as "Smith and Jones".

You would not expect someone to pronounce the symbol as "ampersand" when encountering it in a text.

The "slash" symbols (/ and \) are described by the terms "forward slash" and "backslash" but as mathematical symbols they can denote a number of things. Therefore the reader needs to understand their intended meaning before they can be read properly.

In your example...

There is another common business type of partnership 51% / 49%.

... it seems to me that this is representing a ratio.

A ratio expressed using the format "51:49" would normally be pronounced:

Fifty-one to forty-nine.

However, when it comes to percentages it is quite common to omit the ratio altogether. You may be familiar with the expression "50/50" (fifty-fifty) meaning an equal split two-ways. It may, therefore, be acceptable to say:

Fifty-one forty-nine.

There are other uses for the slash symbol, for example, a fraction. Although fractions are traditionally displayed vertically with the numerator above the denominator, it is also common for some to display these on one line using a slash due to the limitations of a computer keyboard. Whatever the symbol, you should consider what it means in context before attempting to pronounce it.

  • 4
    Actually, the name of "/" is simply "slash", but because so many people confuse it with the backslash "\" it has become increasingly common to call "/" "forward slash". Mar 27, 2019 at 19:31
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    I'm upvoting mostly for the last part, which is how I'd say it: Fifty-one forty-nine. Also, as a footnote, when writing the OP's sentence, I'd be more inclined to use a hyphen, not a slash: There is another common business type of partnership 51% - 49%. (Incidentally, this reminds me: Many sporting venues have 50-50 raffles. However, Las Vegas recently got an NHL expansion team, the Vegas Golden Knights. I had a chance to attend a game, and was amused to see they were conducting a 51-49 raffle. You see, the house always wins in Vegas.)
    – J.R.
    Mar 27, 2019 at 21:34
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    +1 also because of needing to be aware of the intended meaning. So while I think saying "the odds are 50/50" as "fifty fifty" is fine and the most likely way to hear it you would not be correct to say "they have already used up 2/3 of the time" as "two three". This has a different meaing to 50/50 and should be said as "two thirds" (or "two out of three" if the sentence was phrased a little differently).
    – Eric Nolan
    Mar 28, 2019 at 9:41
  • @MontyHarder Yes, that's likely why backslash is a compound word and forward slash is not. It is important to recognise the difference though - although this is not an English language matter, in mathematics they are used to denote a rounded division and a division with a remainder. Again this comes down to knowing what you are reading.
    – Astralbee
    Mar 28, 2019 at 9:49
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    @gidds we're getting into maths here more than English. It isn't the correct way to express a ratio, but when you compare two percentages that represent a split it is essentially the same as a ratio, and the normal way to separate the two is with a slash. It would be strange to present two percentages as a ratio when percentages are, by nature, out of 100, whereas ratios are normally shown in the lowest possible terms. 50/50 is the same as 1:1.
    – Astralbee
    Mar 29, 2019 at 8:20

Many times, slashes and hyphens are left silent when reading expressions that use them. For example:

  • Marriage is a 50/50 relationship.
  • We need to be vigilant 24/7.
  • The school will hold its first 50-50 raffle on Friday.
  • The measure passed 51-49.
  • Liverpool and Manchester played to a 2-2 tie.

  • The Supreme Court issued a 7-2 ruling yesterday.

All of those can be said aloud without the use of a preposition, and without the mention of a punctuation mark between the two numerical values. (The word to could be used in those last three, but it's also commonly omitted.)

I'd be inclined to read your sentence without any mention of the slash.

  • I'd be inclined to reword the sentence into an idiomatic form, so that it's clear that it's a comparison of percentages, and not something else. E.g. the number 5,149, or a legal/technical reference. (Compare to 501(c)3.) "There is another common business type of partnership with a 51% / 49% split," would communicate far more easily.
    – jpaugh
    Apr 5, 2019 at 15:49

It is basically representation of ratio. So there are various ways you can say/express it.

It is same as to ask whether a bar chart or line graph is correct to summarize a data. While both of these are appropriate/correct for the task, it is completely an individual choice.

"Obviously, something totally vague is not going to work"

But anything that expresses correctly the proportion of how one is related to the other is CORRECT.


Many people say it differently, and I guess all are fine. For example:

  • 51% to 49%
  • 51% slash 49%
  • 51% over 49%
  • 51% or 49%

Mathematically speaking, over is correct.

  • 5
    Perhaps over would work fine for a mathematical fraction, but, in the OP's context, I'm not sure I'd classify it as a fraction. When people say things like, "We have a 50/50 partnership," it seems more like a stock phrase than a mathematical expression.
    – J.R.
    Mar 27, 2019 at 21:45
  • "To", "over" and "or" are not at all valid in the same contexts. They have different meanings! Even in mathematics, there is room for ambiguity: you have to agree with the author on which notation is in use, because it's not always the same. For example x is often used to represent a cross-product, rather than multiplication.
    – jpaugh
    Apr 5, 2019 at 15:51

The most correct answer would probably be versus ( or vs for short) but this is a little clumsy in spoken language, so most commonly the slash would become completely silent.

In this context, to is wrong - it would mean that you were talking about a range FROM 51% to 49% when in fact the second number is redundant in this use.

  • 5
    I disagree about "to" meaning a range. A sports call of "They won 51 to 49" doesn't mean "from" at all, it just implies the two different scores. Likewise you could have "X was the majority owner 51% to 49%"
    – Dragonel
    Mar 27, 2019 at 16:53

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