French Numbers Can Be a Headache
Bonjour! If you are learning French, you might have started complaining about French numbers.
In this article, if you wish to be the master of numbers in French. A quick overview of the content:
- French numbers: 1-100
- French numbers: the hundreds and the thousands
- French numbers: above the thousands
- Maths in French
- Years, Fractions, Phone Numbers in French
- Fun facts about French numbers
My name is Eden, and I’ve been teaching French for 5 years. Let me show you and guide you through the world of French numbers. Looking for tips on learning languages in general? Don’t forget to check out our guide to language learning.
Vous êtes prêts ? Trois, deux, un… C’est parti! Let’s begin counting in French!
French Numbers: Counting from 1 to 10 in French
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: Counting from 10 to 20 in French
When you are counting from 10 to 20 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 a first glance of composed numbers : ten-seven, ten-eight and ten-nine. Vingt is an independent number.
SIde note: there are hyphens (-) for composed numbers.
Counting from 20 to 70 in French
Let’s now have a look at counting from 20 to 70.
You may see that vingt, trente, quarante, cinquante and soixante are independent numbers. Inside those numbers, we have composed numbers.
Notice how only “21,31,41,51,61” take an “et” (and) in between. The pattern from 20 to 69 is the same. Isn’t it easy ? Un jeu d’enfant!
How about 70?
Well, once you reach 70, the pattern changes. Let’s take a closer look in the next sectioin.
Counting from 70 to 80 in French
Now, the pattern from 70 to 80 changes, and super easy addition is involved.
(70 = 60+10 = sixty-ten)
As you have probably noticed, the pattern from 70 to 80 changes. Once we reach 70 (60 + 10 in French, or “Soixante-dix“, which is somehow logical!), we continue the same way after “10” : soixante-et-onze, soixante-douze, soixante-treize, all up to 80 (4 x 20 or “Quatre-vingts”).
Counting from 81 to 100 in French
Now, similar to counting from 61-79, counting from 81 to 99 in French is done by adding 1-19 to 80.
Also, “quatre-vingt-un” does not add an extra “et” before “un”, unlike the other patterns.
Regarding the “s” at the end of “quatre-vingts”, it only applies when “quatre-vingts” is not followed by any other numeral: quatre-vingts euros BUT quatre-vingt-trois euros.
Fun Facts about Numbers in French
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 instead of Soixante-dix.
Octante or Huitante instead of Quatre-vingts (only in Switzerland).
Nonante 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:
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: The Thousands
Thousands in French. Surprisingly, reading thousands in French is not the hardest part of the numbers chapter !
In the case of thousands, “mille” stays the same, regardless if it’s followed by another numeral or none.
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.
French Numbers: Above Thousands
Above thousands come millions and billions:
One million (EN)= un million (FR)
Billion (EN) = un milliard (FR)
For composed numbers… you know the drill.
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 __
|Subtract||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:
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 – 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 the 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 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. Au revoir et à bientôt!