5

From this question I know that when mixing "greater than" (>) and "equal to" (=) the correct expression to say is "greater than or equal to"(>=). However, I remember that my math teacher, when writing on the blackboard, always spoke out loudly (in German) what he was writing, e.g. when writing 5x >= 2y, he would have said "fünf x größer gleich 2 y", which is, afaik, common when speaking out this operator in German.

I can't imagine that when speaking about this mathemathical formula in English you would say "five x greater than or equal to 2 y". Is it commonly accepted to say something like "five x greater equal two y"?

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  • In more informal situations you can say "at least". But I've never heard anything but the full expression in mathematics. – Dan Sheppard Jan 16 '15 at 20:40
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In English, one reads “5​x ≥ 2​y” aloud as:

Five ex is greater than or equal to two wye.

The is and or make the sentence literally true by the conventions of ordinary English.

It is quite a mouthful to say. Occasionally I hear people say “greater than equal” to hurry, omitting “is”, “or”, and “to”, but holding “than” a little long to give equal time to each of the three words. More commonly, though, people just get very good at saying “is greater than or equal to” very quickly.

7

Among mathematicians, it is common to use the phrase at least in this context: 5x >= 2y could be read as five x is at least two y. Note that you still need the verb is. For <=, you can use at most.

I am not sure whether this usage would be immediately clear to a non-techical audience.

You could also say five x is not less than two y, or perhaps no less than. This usage seems to be common in legal writing.

(Pedantic nitpick: to a mathematician, >= and <= are not operators but relations.)

  • I don't know whether it's used in English, but a possible way to shorten the reading is to agree with the audience that >= is read as "greater than" and > is read as "strictly greater than". – Massimo Ortolano Jan 16 '15 at 18:59
  • Thank you for your answer. I think that is the most practical way of reading this comparison aloud. By the way: Opposing mathemathics, in computer sciences >= and <= are operators (because a comparison operation yields a result there, i.e. true or false) – Mitja Jan 17 '15 at 18:43

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