Bonjour! If you are learning French, you might have started complaining about French numbers.
True, French numbers can be a real headache.
But it is definitely not something that you cannot conquer after reading this article, and I am happy to help.
Vous êtes prêts ? Trois, deux, un… C’est parti! Let’s begin counting in French!
French Numbers 1 to 100
Starting from 0 to 10
- 0 — zero
- 1 — un
- 2 — deux
- 3 — trois
- 4 — quatre
- 5 — cinq
- 6 — six
- 7 — sept
- 8 — huit
- 9 — neuf
- 10 — dix
First of all, let’s start with the basics. Counting from 1 to 10 in French is quite easy. The numbers are all independent. You just need to memorize them.
French Numbers 11 to 19
- 11 — onze
- 12 — douze
- 13 — treize
- 14 — quatorze
- 15 — quinze
- 16 — seize
- 17 — dix-sept
- 18 — dix-huit
- 19 — dix-neuf
When you are counting from 10 to 19 in French, you can now see two types of numbers: independent and composed numbers.
As you might have noticed, from 17 to 19 (dix-sept, dix-huit, dix-neuf) we have the first glance of composed numbers.
When to use the Hyphens in French Numbers
Are you wondering if there’s an easy way to memorize the use of hyphens in numbers?
Well, it really depends on how obsessed you are with spelling French numbers out.
If you are not obsessed, the simple rule is to add hyphens between words in composed numbers. (This rule was mentioned in “Reforms of French Orthography“.)
French Numbers 20 to 69
Counting 20-69 is easy. It’s pretty similar to English numbers.
- Firstly: 20/30/40/50/60 are independent numbers.
- Secondly: 21/31/41/51/61 share the same rule: “vingt/trente/quarante/cinquante/soixante” plus “et un”
- Everything else: replace “et” with “-“. For example, 22 is vingt-deux instead of vingt et deux.
The image below summarizes this group of numbers.
How about 70?
Well, once you reach 70, the pattern changes. Let’s take a closer look in the next section.
French Numbers 70 to 79
Super easy addition based on “soixante (60)” is involved.
Number — French — English
- 70 — Soixante-dix (sixty-ten)
- 71 — Soixante-et-onze (sixty-and-eleven)
- 72 — Soixante-douze (sixty-twelve)
- 73 — Soixante-treize (sixty-thirteen)
- 74 — Soixante-quatorze (sixty-fourteen)
- 75 — Soixante-quinze (sixty-fifteen)
- 76 — Soixante-seize (sixty-sixteen)
- 77 — Soixante-dix-sept (sixty-ten-seven)
- 78 — Soixante-dix-huit (sixty-ten-eight）
- 79 — Soixante-dix-neuf (sixty-ten-nine)
French Numbers 80 to 100
Now, similar to counting from 61-79, counting from 81 to 99 in French is done by adding 1-19 to 80.
Number — French — English (literal)
- 80 — Quatre-vingts (four-twenties)
- 81 — Quatre-vingt-un (four-twenty-one) (no “et”)
- 82 — Quatre-vingt-deux (four-twenty-two)
- 83 — Quatre-vingt-trois (four-twenty-three)
- 84 — Quatre-vingt-quatre (four-twenty-four)
- 85 — Quatre-vingt-cinq (four-twenty-five)
- 86 — Quatre-vingt-six (four-twenty-six)
- 87 — Quatre-vingt-sept (four-twenty-seven)
- 88 — Quatre-vingt-huit (four-twenty-eight)
- 89 — Quatre-vingt-neuf (four-twenty-nine)
- 90 — Quatre-vingt-dix (four-twenty-ten)
- 91 — Quatre-vingt-onze (four-twenty-eleven)
- 92 — Quatre-vingt-douze (four-twenty-twelve)
- 93 — Quatre-vingt-treize (four-twenty-thirteen)
- 94 — Quatre-vingt-quatorze (four-twenty-fourteen)
- 95 — Quatre-vingt-quinze (four-twenty-fifteen)
- 96 — Quatre-vingt-seize (four-twenty-sixteen)
- 97 — Quatre-vingt-dix-sept (four-twenty-ten-seven)
- 98 — Quatre-vingt-dix-huit (four-twenty-ten-eight)
- 99 — Quatre-vingt-dix-neuf (four-twenty-ten-nine)
- 100 — Cent (one hundred)
Notice that “quatre-vingt-un” does not add an extra “et” before “un”? Yep, it’s an exception.
Regarding the “s” at the end of “quatre-vingts”, it only applies when “quatre-vingts” is not followed by any other numeral: quatre-vingts for 80, quatre-vingt-trois for 83.
If you want to do more exercises with numbers-related expressions, or even other French expressions that will come in handy, check out the LingoDeer app (Android/iOS) for the free Travel Phrasebook course!
Fun Facts About Numbers in French
Why is the French counting system so strange?
As you can see, the French counting system is different from most languages because it starts adding two numbers together once it reached 70. This is because the French language uses the vigesimal numeral system, meaning the system is based on 20 (the same way the decimal numeral system is based on 10).
This counting system actually comes from Gaulish, a Celtic language spoken in France before modern Romance languages. Similar languages that have a root in Gaulish are Welsh and Scottish. If you take a look at the counting system in these two languages, you will notice a similar pattern.
Is this system used in all French-speaking countries?
In French and Quebec in Canada, the above system is used. However, in French-speaking Belgium and Switzerland, people don’t say “soixante-dix, quatre-vingts, quatre-vingt-dix”.
They will instead follow the usual pattern as from 20 to 60 and use :
Septante for 70 instead of Soixante-dix.
Octante or Huitante for 80 instead of Quatre-vingts (only in Switzerland).
Nonante for 90 instead of Quatre-vingt-dix.
This would be more logical if you take a step back and look at how 40, 50 and 60 are written. But French will always be French and if there are no complications in the language… it’s not real French!
French Numbers: What happens After 100?
Afterwards, let’s move on to the hundreds. It’s very similar to the English way of counting hundreds. Take a look at this table:
- 100 — Cent
- 200 — Deux-cents
- 300 — Trois-cents
- 400 — Quatre-cents
- 500 — Cinq-cents
- 600 — Six-cents
- 700 — Sept-cents
- 800 — Huit-cents
- 900 — Neuf-cents
- 1000 — Mille
If you would like to read composed numbers out loud, let me show you how to do it:
Let’s take 152 as an example: cent-cinquante-deux. There are no particular tricks here, just assembling the numbers together. Hundreds + tens and units.
Now let’s do the same thing with 368: trois-cent-soixante-huit. Have you noticed something? Yes. The “s” of “trois-cents” has disappeared. This rule is the same as the “s” of “quatre-vingts“: if it’s above 100 and not followed by any other numeral, the “s” stays (deux-cents, trois-cents…).
Before you go ahead and read the next paragraph, try to train yourself and figure out how to spell these numbers now:
145 – 324 – 294 – 569 – 812 – 900
Cent-quarante-cinq / Trois-cent-vingt-quatre / Deux-cent-quatre-vingt-quatorze / Cinq-cent-soixante-neuf / Huit-cent-douze / Neuf-cents.
French Numbers: Above Thousands
Thousands in French. Surprisingly, reading thousands in French is not the hardest part of the numbers chapter!
- 1000 — Mille
- 2000 — Deux-mille
- 3000 — Trois-mille
- 4000 — Quatre-mille
- 5000 — Cinq-mille
- 6000 — Six-mille
- 7000 — Sept-mille
- 8000 — Huit-mille
- 9000 — Neuf-mille
- 10,000 — Dix-mille
- 100,000 — Cent-mille
- 500,000 — Cinq-cent-mille
In the case of thousands, “mille” stays the same, regardless if it’s followed by another numeral or none.
Above thousands come millions and billions:
million (EN) = million (FR)
billion (EN) = milliard (FR)
Reading Years in French
Reading years in French is simple, it only requires a little bit of training with numbers. The trick is to decompose the year into thousands + hundreds + tens and units:
1952 = mille-neuf-cent-cinquante-deux (1000 / 900 / 52)
1879 = mille-huit-cent-soixante-dix-neuf (1000 / 800 / 79)
Now, your turn! Train yourself how to read these numbers (or years) out loud:
2014 – 1789 – 1515 – 1981 – 1993 – 2003
Deux-mille-quatorze / Mille-sept-cent-quatre-vingt-neuf / Mille-cinq-cent-quinze / Mille-neuf-cent-quatre-vingt-un / Mille-neuf-cent-quatre-vingt-treize / Deux-mille-trois.
Mathematics in French
Add, Subtract, Multiply and Divide in French
Reading mathematics is something that you might also have to master if you really want to know how to count in French. Here’s how you do it:
- plus — Add — Un plus deux
- moins — Sustract — Deux moins un
- fois|multiplié par — Multiply — Trois fois cinq; Trois multiplié par cinq
- divisé par — Divide — Dix divisé par deux
- Est égal à — Equals — Un plus deux est égal à trois
Fractions in French
How do you read fractions in French? This first table will show you how to read some fixed expressions:
- 1/2 — Un demi
- 1/3 — Un tiers
- 1/4 — Un quart
- 1/5 — Un cinquième
- 1/10 — Un dixème
- 1/20 — Un vingtième
Regarding other types of fractions, you will have to use this pattern:
(number) sur (number)
Let me show you an example: 5/20 = cinq sur vingt. Easy, right?
And what if you would like to read a number such as x.y? (0.5 , 2.9 … )
👉Regarding decimal separators (the period between numbers) in French, we don’t use the period. In fact, we will use a comma (“,“) to separate decimals: 0,5 or 2,9 … If you would like to pronounce them out loud, just add “virgule” (comma) in between.
0,5 = zéro virgule cinq / 2,9 = deux virgule neuf.
Percentages in French
To read percentages in French, it’s even easier. You only will need to add “pourcent(s)” (or “pour cent”) at the end of your number.
15% = quinze pourcents / pour cent.
Note that “pourcent” will change and agree with the number (if there is more than 1%, then “pourcent” will be written with an “s”). “Pour cent”, on the other side, will always be invariable. In other words, “pourcent” is “per-hundred”, a noun, and “pour cent” is the noun phrase “per one hundred”.
How to Read Phone Numbers in French
Finally, let’s take a look at our last part of how to count in French… phone numbers! This may not be exactly counting, as I would say, but it’s part of daily life.
Note that most French telephone numbers are written this way :
0x xx xx xx xx (Example: 04 . 98 . 10 . 20 . 32)
So we read them by pairs (zéro quatre , quatre-vingt-dix-huit, dix, vingt, trente-deux).
However, you may stumble upon different numbers using different formats (such as 3 by 3 instead of pairs), you may read them using “hundreds” :
851 – 121 (huit-cent-cinquante-et-un / cent-vingt-et-un)
There you go! You now know pretty much everything about reading numbers in French and you may now start counting in French.
The key here is to train yourself to read numbers out loud, a little bit of exercise with LingoDeer goes a long way. Remember, with hard work and practice, it will be easier for you to master reading and pronouncing French numbers.
If you are a complete beginner, don’t forget to check out The Best Way to Learn French for Complete Beginners and master the basics in a 15-min reading. If you have already known some French, we’d always suggest using as many resources as possible. For example, listening to podcasts recorded by native speakers. Study French is a great resource for those who wish to move beyond the intermediate level while listening to interesting topics. It’s available both on Apple and Spotify.
Au revoir et à bientôt!