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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    Jan 16, 2015 at 13:03
  • In more informal situations you can say "at least". But I've never heard anything but the full expression in mathematics.
    – Dan
    Jan 16, 2015 at 20:40

2 Answers 2


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.


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". Jan 16, 2015 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, 2015 at 18:43

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