Investigations continue into the break-in at Gringotts on 31 July . . .
(Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone; Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone) [audio]

The first reader (Stephen Fry) says ‘the thirty first of July,’ and the second one (Jim Dale) ‘thirty one July.’ I’m confused whether the latter can be used or not. Would you tell me?

  • 4
    Yes, you can read it either way. It's said in more than two ways and written in more than two ways. It's not a poem, and it's not Finnegans Wake, so it doesn't really matter. Unless JK Rowling objects to "the thirty-first of July", that is.
    – user264
    May 24, 2013 at 12:13
  • Related: english.stackexchange.com/questions/81539/…
    – J.R.
    May 26, 2013 at 2:46

3 Answers 3


A date written as "July 31" can be equally correctly pronounced "July thirty-one" and "July thirty-first". It stands to reason that a date written as "31 July" can also be pronounced a number of ways, including the bare "thirty-one July".

Note that to American ears, writing a date as "31 July" is unnatural to begin with, so how you pronounce it makes very little difference. Jim Dale has lived in the USA since 1980, so perhaps that had an influence on how he chose to read a date format that he rarely encounters anymore. More likely, though, this was a stylistic choice to reflect that he was reading a newspaper article, where conciseness —even terseness— is the order of the day.

  • 5
    As a small exception to what you say here, the form 31 July is not at all "unnatural" to those who have served in the U.S. military.
    – J.R.
    May 26, 2013 at 2:50

I’m confused whether the latter can be used or not. Would you tell me?

‘thirty one July.’ might be correct in foreign varieties of English but, it's not in the English kind of English. In England and the rest of the UK, it would be exceptional to find even one person who said dates like that. I haven't heard that at all. It could be that saying it that way is something peculiar to that, particular person (Jim Dale).

In England and the rest of the UK, dates are normally spoken in the English way which is how he first reader (Stephen Fry) said it, ‘the thirty first of July,’. They are in the order of day, month and year.

Unless you use a particular, foreign variety of English where ‘thirty one July.’ would be correct; it would not be used.


In the US we say the "Fourth of July" or "July fourth" for the month and day. You could also say "seven four seventeen seventy six" for 7/4/1776 for July 4th, 1776.

Four July would be interpreted as for July as in: "This bulletin is for July." or "I will use July for my vacation."

  • 2
    I don't think this answers the question. If you read "31 July" aloud, you may either say it as written "thirty-one July" or take some liberties and interpret it as "the thirty first of July" or "July thirty first". I think adding in the homonym pair "four" and "for" makes things more confusing without more explanation of why you might say July fourth instead of four July. That issue doesn't seem to apply here. Even if the text was written "break-in on 4 July", the "on" would disambiguate "four July" from "for July" although it would certainly be clearer to say July fourth.
    – ColleenV
    Sep 25, 2014 at 18:28

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