Simple question: How many is a Billion?
Awkward Answer: It’s not always what you think it is.
First, if you are American, then a billion is one-thousand-million:
This is known as a short-scale billion.
However, many British people regard a billion as one-million-million:
Which is known as a long-scale billion.
This is despite the fact that “officially” in the UK since 1974 (because of American influence) a billion is:
This means that in the UK and amongst British English speakers there’s often ambiguity as to how much a billion really is.
Other countries differ.
In most of Europe and South America a billion is long-scale; in other English speaking countries and Arabic countries a billion is short-scale.
So just remember this when you are dealing with this number in your TEFL class. What you might think of as a billion may well be different from what your students might think of as a billion and, as we’re dealing with a pretty big number here, it could make a lot of difference!
Sometimes you’ll see billion written as
1k million = 1,000,000,000
This makes it more international and avoids any ambiguity.
Numbers in English Grammar – how to talk about numbers in English
American English – about American English
British English – about British English