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Decades in English (Basic, A-Level)

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In this lesson, you will learn how to refer to decades in English.

Decades can be the 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, and so on. How do you refer to the first decade? The zeros? And the 10s? The teens or the tens?


Prerequisite: To understand this lesson, you need to know the cardinal numbers in English.

Talking about decades

When we talk about the past and future, sometimes we want to refer to a period of time, not a specific year. We use decades, periods of 10 years.

Saying the decades

Here are the current decades and how we say them:

2000s - the two thousands or the twenty hundreds

10s - the twenty tens

20s - the twenties

30s - the thirties

40s - the forties

50s - the fifties

… and so on.

2000s - Other Ways

Another way to refer to the 2000s is “the aughts” (mainly in the United States) and “the noughties” (in the United Kingdom). “Aught” and “nought” mean “zero.”

the aughts /ðij ˈɑːts/

the noughties /ðə ˈnɑːtiz/

”at the turn of the century”

We say ”at the turn of the century” to talk about the time at the end of a century and the beginning of the next.

For the current century, you say “at the turn of the century” to refer to the late 90s and early 2000s.

Extra Reading: The Names of Decades

Sometimes people refer to decades by a name that tells you something about the decade.

1920s: The Roaring 20s or The Golden 20s - This decade was marked by economic prosperity. People had many parties and fun. Jazz was very popular. Cars and radios became popular.

1930s: The Great Depression Era or The Dirty 30s - This decade was marked by the Great Depression. Many people lost everything and had no jobs or money. It was a hard time for families.

1940s: The World War II Era - World War II was at the center of everyone’s life during the 40s.

1950s: The Eisenhower Era - After the war ended, things got better during this decade. Eisenhower was the president of the United States. People started new families.

1960s: The Swinging Sixties - “Swinging” refers to music and dancing. There were many cultural and political changes. People loved music, dancing, and wearing colorful clothes.

1970s: The Disco Era or The Me Decade - The 70s saw the beginning of disco music. There were also many changes in politics and how people thought about themselves.

1980s: The Reagan Era - A conservative, Ronald Reagan was president of the United States. The economy was strong and there were many technological advancements. People also had big hair and wore colorful clothes.

1990s: The Information Age, The Dot-Com Bubble, or The Gay 90s - Computers and the internet became important. People talked to each other online and bought things on the internet. Dot-com companies appeared everywhere, but they crashed, and people lost a lot of money.

2000s: The New Millennium - People were excited about a new century. There were big events such as the 9/11 terror attacks in the United States and the global financial crisis.


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