I want to describe the fraction x/y, how should I describe it in English?

x divided by y?


2 Answers 2


There are a few possibilities, depending on preference and the nature of what you are writing. In the context of an essay, novel, etc., and in older texts it would be usual to express fractions as a numerator/denominator combination. So 1/4 -> one quarter; 3/4 -> three quarters; 7/64 -> seven sixtyfourths. Note the special cases: 1/2 -> one half, 1/4 -> one quarter. Otherwise the denominator is changed to the ordinal number form.

The form you give, "x divided by y" is fine, but is normally used in an explanatory sense, to emphasise the operation which is being carried out, rather than the resulting fraction.

In many modern texts, "x over y" is common, and is more or less universal when y becomes large. So one might use (x+1)/(x-1) -> "x plus one over x minus one", 17/121 -> seventeen over one two one. But even when that form is being used, you'd not usually use 1/2 -> "one over two" - you'd almost always say "one half", "one quarter", even "one eighth". And by the way, in English speaking environments where decimal measures are not fully used, you'll sometimes find expressions like "one thou" for 1/1000 - usually one thousandth of an inch!


You could do. But most people with any knowledge of mathematics would say "x over y".

  • This answer is incomplete and is lacking references.
    – CJ Dennis
    Feb 21, 2020 at 21:49

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