English learners are taught not to write "the" when writing dates but I see that many native speakers do. Or am I wrong? The sentence below was written by a native speaker. "I paid off my PayPal Credit balance on the 10th September."

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    We would write 'on the tenth of September', but it's not usual to write the article when the day is given in figures. Commented Sep 27, 2020 at 9:15
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    "The" before dates is acceptable if you use the format the [ordinal number] of [month name as a word] example: the tenth (or 10th) of September. Writing 'my birthday is the 10 September' or ' I came here on the 10/09/2020' would be unusual and probably seen as an error. Commented Sep 27, 2020 at 9:15
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    "On the tenth of September" would be technically correct, but we would rarely write out the ordinal as a full word. So really it should be "on 10th September" (or "on 10 September"). The native speaker simply didn't follow standard practice in this case.
    – rjpond
    Commented Sep 27, 2020 at 10:21
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    I would definitely write the ordinal as a word in direct speech, e.g. "I am seeing my lawyer on the third of October" said Julian. Commented Sep 27, 2020 at 10:40
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    @MichaelHarvey On reflection I agree with you there.
    – rjpond
    Commented Sep 27, 2020 at 10:45

1 Answer 1


As a native speaker, I was taught the same as you - that the words "the" and "of" are pronounced, but not spelt out. So I would write:

On 10th September

(Traditionally, the "th" is written in superscript - 10th. With the decline of handwritten correspondence and the rise of print, this practice nearly disappeared for a while, but has returned now that many word processors will do it automatically for you. It is nevertheless optional.)

It is equally acceptable to write:

On 10 September

Both are pronounced "on the tenth of September".

This is standard practice (to omit the "the" in writing), but that doesn't mean that all native speakers will follow it. In formal usage, "the" can be reinserted, but "of" must be as well:

The more complicated the style of date, the more formal it is... The and of are optional, but if you do use them you must add both the and of; it would be incorrect to say only 13th of April or the 13th April. (English Lessons Brighton))

If I were writing out the date in full (as words rather than with figures), I would write:

On the tenth of September

but we rarely do that. It might be appropriate in a legal document. I also agree with Michael Harvey that it would be better to use the full version in direct speech:

"I'm seeing him on the third of October," she said.

The full version would also be common when referring to certain holidays or festivities (in which case the ordinal number would probably be capitalised too):

On the Fifth of November

On the Fourth of July

I would also include the "the" if I were omitting the month:

I was there on the 10th.

(This is another place where "tenth" would work well.)

Much of the above is primarily applicable to British English. In American English, except in very formal contexts or when referring to the Fourth of July, they write dates the other way round - as "September 10th" or "September 10" (although nowadays including the ordinal suffix is apparently rare in the US). British people sometimes do this as well, although some Brits regard it as an American practice to be avoided. Here the word "the" is not written, either, but is still pronounced - at least in Britain; I have observed that Americans often say "September tenth" without pronouncing "the".

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    He is only talking about how you write it. It is possible to include the "the" if you also include the "of". (Both of them are included when speaking it out, regardless.) But it is much more common to miss out both the "the" and "of" in writing. There are some circumstances where it may be included, as I set out. But if you put "The 10th of March" at the top of your letter, that would look strange, and if you wrote "Thank you for your letter of the 10th of March", that would look at least somewhat odd. It is very much the preferred practice to miss out the "the" and "of" in most situations.
    – rjpond
    Commented Sep 27, 2020 at 12:20
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    In speech, both words are always spoken (except of course when the format is reversed - "March 10th" doesn't have an "of").
    – rjpond
    Commented Sep 27, 2020 at 12:20
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    No problem. "The tenth of September" is formal/literary/rare, and "the 10th of September" is probably rarer. We usually write "10th September" or "10 September". Is that any clearer?
    – rjpond
    Commented Sep 27, 2020 at 15:39
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    You're correct. They are all just different ways of writing it. Informally, you could also write "I was born on 10/9" (although that can also be pronounced as "the tenth of the ninth") - but that would confuse American readers, who would think it meant 9th October.
    – rjpond
    Commented Sep 27, 2020 at 15:57
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    @AntoniaA Of course.
    – rjpond
    Commented Sep 27, 2020 at 17:07

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