If I need to mention the year and the century how do I say that in one sentence?

  1. They moved abroad in the 70s in the twentieth century.

  2. They have a collection of paintings painted in the 70s in the twentieth century.

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    "The 70s" is short for the 1970s. If you want to refer to a different century, then you'd probably need to use something other than "the 70s". Is your question specific to decades (60s, 70s, 80s, etc.) or is it about years? If it's the latter, how would you mention a specific year without a century (it wouldn't make sense to say something like "the 73s" to refer to 1973)? Or is that part of your question?
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented Aug 24, 2021 at 7:16
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    @NotThatGuy Yes, generally - though I think if you were writing a book about 19th-century history, "the seventies" could stand for the 1870s, in context. But in the vast majority of cases "the seventies" will mean the 1970s and this will also be obvious from the context. What about the current decade? I am sure it will come to be referred to as "the twenties", even though that term has (until now) generally referred to the 1920s.
    – rjpond
    Commented Aug 24, 2021 at 7:38
  • @rjpond "What about the current decade?" - I'm sure people will figure that out in a few decades.
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented Aug 24, 2021 at 7:41
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    @EllieK The answer that basically says 1970s is popular because that's almost always the best and most common way to "mention the year and the century", as OP asks, and phrase what the statements in the question are trying to say. If OP specifically wants to write that out or include the word "century", then that answer wouldn't apply, but it's not clear whether this is what they want (which may indeed be a reason to close the question). Although your answer gives a correct (if uncommon) phrasing, so I don't think downvoting it is justified (but it arguably also shouldn't be accepted).
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented Aug 25, 2021 at 6:57
  • 1
    @alephzero Answers and acceptance are independent of closure. If we really weren't supposed to close questions with accepted answers, it wouldn't even be possible to do so. I'd agree that the concept of accepted answers and building a knowledge base are at odds, but my conclusion is that we should get rid of answer acceptance. I've never understood why people who disagree about building a knowledge base complain about closure after a question's been answered. If you don't think a question has long-term value, then why would it matter if we prevent more answers after it's helped the asker?
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented Aug 25, 2021 at 7:02

4 Answers 4


When discussing centuries, as in Norwegians came to the New World in the eleventh century, you may have to resort to some old fashioned sounding sentences. I would say Hrvald the Norwegian sailed the ocean in the ninety second year of the eleventh century (1092), or if you want to get really uncommon, ... sailed the ocean in the ninety second year of the second millennium.

  • 4
    The fifteenth century ran from 1401 through 1500, so 1492 is in fact its ninety-second year, not its ninety-third; so you were right the first time. (But either way, yes, very confusing.)
    – ruakh
    Commented Aug 24, 2021 at 1:28
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    I am not sure that this answer has any merit, since people are liable to disagree on which year is being referred to by "ninety-third year of the fifteenth century". It also doesn't answer the OP's question, which was to do with decades. The question was how to mention the seventies and the 20th c. at the same time. One could refer to the 1970s as the "eighth decade of the twentieth century", but even then, some readers would misunderstand. "In the 1970s" seems the best solution by far.
    – rjpond
    Commented Aug 24, 2021 at 7:35
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    This is a bizarre answer, especially in an ELL context. Not at all helpful for OP or anyone with the same question IMO. The answer is unambiguously "the 1870s", "the 1970s", et al., as answered by @Andy Bonner.
    – OJFord
    Commented Aug 24, 2021 at 10:52
  • 1
    @rjpond - I didn't realize the OP was unfamiliar with the near ubiquitous usage of denoting years such as 1970. I saw twentieth century written out and assumed that the OP meant twentieth century when they said mention the century.
    – EllieK
    Commented Aug 24, 2021 at 12:27
  • 3
    Besides the overall suggestion being one I don't care for, the math in your last edit seems to be wrong here: the 11th century is the 1000s, 1000 to 1099. Not the 1200s. This illustrates why it sucks to turn numeric dates into words that enumerate centuries with cardinal numbers (starting at 1st for year 0000), let alone doing the same for years or decades within centuries. You have to adjust by 1 for 0-based vs 1-based numbering, and if you go the wrong direction you're off by 2. (And for years or decades people might not think of doing the adjustment like we're use to for centuries.) Commented Aug 25, 2021 at 4:45

The clearest and most concise way would be "in the 1970s" (pronounced "nineteen seventies").

  • 4
    @AntoniaA That's right, each question can only have one accepted answer. Commented Aug 23, 2021 at 17:55
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    People might work out what you mean, but we'd generally say, "in the 1970s." For the second sentence you could say, "Their twentieth century paintings include some from the 70s." Commented Aug 23, 2021 at 18:00
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    If you want to be understood, this is the answer.
    – David K
    Commented Aug 24, 2021 at 6:56
  • 3
    This answer would be even better if you clarified that this would be pronounced "nineteen seventies".
    – Muzer
    Commented Aug 24, 2021 at 15:26
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    @AntoniaA: you can only accept one answer, and you're encouraged to pick the one you think is best. (Not the first answer that seemed useful at the time.) If you agree with commenters and downvoters on the "ninety second year of the eleventh century" answer that it's clunky, non-standard, and likely to be misunderstood (something you'd only use if you intentionally wanted to be long-winded or sound extra formal), you can change your accept vote, that's normal for Stack Exchange when later answers are posted. If you still like the answer you accepted first, that's fine, it is your choice. Commented Aug 25, 2021 at 4:49

If you want to mention a decade within the last 100 years, such as the 1970s, you merely say the decade.

I moved to Australia in the seventies.

If the decade is from more than 100 years ago, such as 1870, you would include the century.

My grandparents moved to Australia in the eighteen seventies.

  • If you moved to Australia in the seventies, it obviously means the 1970s, unless you are a Greenland Shark that got bored with the northern hemisphere. (The oldest known specimen was estimated to be between 300 and 500 years old when it was caught in 2016)
    – alephzero
    Commented Aug 24, 2021 at 15:44

Normally, "the seventies" means the 1970s. There are rare occasions where it could mean (for example) the 1870s - this is unusual, but should be obvious from context, e.g.

The British suffragists pushed forward enthusiastically for some twenty years, but the failure to achieve success in 1885, when the third Reform Bill was passed giving the agricultural labourer the vote, seemed to take the heart out of our early suffragists, and the movement died down again. Meanwhile, in the nineties the American women were full of life and enthusiasm, winning victory after victory in State after State. (= eighteen nineties) ( https://spartacus-educational.com/USAWstanton.htm )

If you feel that there is any ambiguity about which century you are discussing, simply use the full form ("1970s"/"nineteen seventies" rather than "seventies"/"'70s"). But in the vast majority of cases it is obvious.

It would be unidiomatic to say "the seventies of the nineteenth century" or the like. Googling finds some such expressions, but many of them seem to be written by non-native speakers or appear in translations from other languages.

  • I can imagine "in the twentieth century, during the '70s" being used without seeming unidiomatic. But I agree that the reversed form presented above sounds very odd. Commented Aug 25, 2021 at 17:10
  • @DarrenRinger That works - provided that there's a comma (as in your example), dash or brackets separating the two expressions. But in that case, "during the 1970s" comes across as either an afterthought or an aside. So it isn't something I would generally recommend, especially in writing. There are circumstances where it might be appropriate, but it's not (in my view) a general answer to the OP's question of how to combine mention of the decade with mention of the century.
    – rjpond
    Commented Aug 25, 2021 at 17:52

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