Lucky numbers

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 June, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 June, 2008, 12:00am

Numbers have a place in language as well as maths

What's in a number?

What is ...

1 a box number?

a. a system where advertisers are assigned a number that people can use to reply through the newspaper

b. a private phone number

2 a cardinal number?

a. any number over a hundred

b. a number representing quantity (i.e. 'one', not 'first', etc)

3 a number plate?

a. the plate on the front and back of a vehicle giving its registration number

b. the number on a cinema ticket

4 a PIN number?

a. a number that identifies a book

b. a secret number that you use to access your

bank account

5 a prime number?

a. a number that cannot be divided by any other number except one and itself

b. the winning lottery ticket number

6 a serial number?

a. a set of numbers that identifies an item such as a camera, television etc

b. the number on the front of a bus

7 a whole number?

a. any number over a thousand

b. a round number (with no halves, quarters etc)

8 the opposite number?

a. a person who has the same job as you in another organisation

b. the person sitting opposite you on a train

9 number one?

a. yourself (and nobody else)

b. your best friend

10 a back number?

a. the number a runner wears on his vest for a marathon race

b. a past copy of a magazine or newspaper

Number phrases

Match the sentences on the left with the corrected meanings on the right.

11 He always puts number one first.

12 I've got your number!

13 There could be any number of people at the meeting tomorrow.

14 Maggie is Public Enemy Number One in our office.

15 I thought my number was up!

16 She did a number on her ex-boyfriend last week.

17 He's the chief number cruncher in our company.

18 Li Ka-shing's fortune is beyond number!

a. He is the person who deals with (boring / interesting) number work in the office.

b. He always does what's (best / worst) for himself and ignores the feeling of others.

c. Li Ka-shing's fortune is so big it can't be (counted / won)!

d. I know what you are secretly (thinking / eating)!

e. (Nobody / everybody) in the office approves of Maggie.

f. I thought I was going (to die / to faint)!

g. She really (stuck up for /embarrassed) her ex-boyfriend last week.

h. I don't (know / mind) how many people are due at the meeting tomorrow.

Fill in the gaps

Can you complete these dialogues with number words or phrases?

19 I don't want to give a phone number in that advert for a language teacher. I'll ask them to use a ________________ for people to contact me.

20 Yes, that's correct. You'll receive a ________________ for your new credit card in the post in a few days time.

21 You don't seem to hang out with Lucy any more.

I see very little of her these days. She's so selfish. She always puts ________________ first and doesn't bother about anyone else.

22 Can I order a ________________ of Football Now, please? I'd like you to get me last November's copy if you can.

23 Make a note of the ________________ on the box of your new camera. You'll need it when you fill out the guarantee card.

24 My ________________ in the Shenzhen office is Denis Tan. He's very efficient and whenever I've had to deal with him he's always polite and very helpful.

25 The ________________ on the front of your car is covered with mud. You need to wash it so people can read it. It's illegal to drive around with it like that.

26 Three and seven are examples of ________________.

27 Everybody hates him, but he doesn't seem to notice he's ________________ in our part of the office.

28 I don't know who will turn up. There could be ________________ of people, so make sure you make plenty of food.


1. a; 2. b; 3. a; 4. b; 5. a; 6. a; 7. b; 8. a; 9. a; 10. b; 11. b - best; 12. d - thinking; 13. h - know; 14. e - Nobody; 15. f - die; 16. g - embarrassed; 17. a - boring; 18 c - counted. ; 19. box number; 20. PIN number; 21. number one; 22. back number; 23. serial number; 24. opposite number; 25. number plate; 26. prime numbers; 27. Public Enemy Number One; 28. any number