Million or millions?

Posted by on March 11th, 2016 | 0 comments | EAP, grammar, interactive, numbers, speaking, vocabulary, writing

According to a recent census, there are 265 millions people living in Indonesia.

Yes, I know it seems right. But it isn’t. Only put an ‘s’ on million when million is the main noun in a noun phrase. Very often million is the main noun in a noun phrase when it is at the beginning of a sentence..

  • Millions of people live in Indonesia, a huge archipelago in south-east Asia.

..but not always. It might appear somewhere inside a sentence:

  • Indonesia spends millions of dollars every year subsidising fuel.

..and sometimes the main noun might be ‘implied’:

  • There are now 256 million people, but the figure expected to increase to 500 million during the next 50 years.

In the last example, ‘500 million’ means ‘500 million people’!
In the noun phrase millions of peoplemillions is the main noun, modified by of people. We know exactly which millions you’re talking about – not millions of bananas, for example! The same goes for millions of dollars (not millions of rupiah!).
When million is not the main noun, for example when it is modifying another noun, don’t add an ‘s’:

According to a recent census, there are 265 million people living in Indonesia.

In the noun phrase 265 million people living in Indonesia, the main noun is ‘people’. All of the other words in the phrase give us information about ‘people’ – how many, and where they live.
The same rule applies to hundred(s)thousand(s), etc.

Practice

Last year millions of people around the world spent 2 thousand dollars or more buying consumer goods. Of these goods, smartphones have become a million dollar industry with hundreds of manufacturers in more than 3 hundred countries. In the future this is likely to grow to at least a thousand, and even to many thousands.

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