How to Count in French: Everything You Need to Learn French Numbers Fast
If your goal is to become conversationally fluent in French, you have to learn French numbers.
Think of all the times you hear or read numbers daily in English. They’re everywhere—on the news, in stores, on your phone, etc.
Thus, knowing how to count in French is critical to your survival in not only France, but any French conversation in general.
In this blog post, you’ll learn how to count in French like a native (and creative ways to practice).
- Counting from 1 to 19 in French
- Counting from 20 to 69 in French
- Counting from 70 to 79 in French
- Counting from 80 to 99 in French
- Counting Beyond 100 in French
- Plural Numbers in French
- French Gender and Number Agreement
- French Colloquial Terms for Numbers
- Ordinal Numbers in French
- How to Practice Counting in French
Counting from 1 to 19 in French
After zéro (0), you could probably already name some of the first 19 numbers:
1 — un
2 — deux
3 — trois
4 — quatre
5 — cinq
6 — six
7 — sept
8 — huit
9 — neuf
10 — dix
See, that’s not so bad. Now let’s continue:
11 — onze
12 — douze
13 — treize
14 — quatorze
15 — quinze
16 — seize
17 — dix-sept
18 — dix-huit
19 — dix-neuf
The number 17 is literally “ten-seven” in French, 18 is “ten-eight” and so forth.
Counting from 20 to 69 in French
The numbers between 20 and 69 follow the same pattern as the first 19 numbers, but we need to memorize each multiple of 10 first.
20 — vingt
30 — trente
40 — quarante
50 — cinquante
60 — soixante
The nine numbers following each of those use a similar pattern. So for numbers 20 to 30, we have:
20 — vingt
21 — vingt-et-un
22 — vingt-deux
23 — vingt-trois
24 — vingt-quatre
25 — vingt-cinq
26 — vingt-six
27 — vingt-sept
28 — vingt-huit
29 — vingt-neuf
This is true for all numbers up to 69.
35 — trente-cinq
French accepts both hyphens and no hyphens in numbers, so some people would write 21 as vingt et un.
To be consistent, I’m following the Rectifications orthographiques du français en 1990, which recommends putting a hyphen between each digit of a number.
The only exception: million is never hyphenated.
Special cases: 21, 31, 41, 51, 61
Did you notice anything strange in the numbers above? Most—but not all—numbers above 20 that end in “one” include et (and) between the two digits.
21 — vingt-et-un (literally: twenty-and-one)
41 — quarante-et-un (literally: forty-and-one)
Counting from 70 to 79 in French
70 in French is literally “sixty-ten,” soixante-dix. The numbers from 70 to 79 follow this pattern, meaning 71 is “sixty-eleven,” 72 is “sixty-twelve,” and so forth.
Take a look:
70 — soixante-dix
71 — soixante-et-onze
72 — soixante-douze
73 — soixante-treize
74 — soixante-quatorze
75 — soixante-quinze
76 — soixante-seize
77 — soixante-dix-sept
78 — soixante-dix-huit
79 — soixante-dix-neuf
Note: the numbers up to 69 are the same everywhere, but in Belgium and Switzerland, 70 is called septante. For example:
75 — septante-cinq
Counting from 80 to 99 in French
If that wasn’t crazy enough, we say quatre-vingts, or “four twenties” for 80.
80 — quatre-vingts
81 — quatre-vingt-un
82 — quatre-vingt-deux
83 — quatre-vingt-trois
84 — quatre-vingt-quatre
85 — quatre-vingt-cinq
86 — quatre-vingt-six
87 — quatre-vingt-sept
88 — quatre-vingt-huit
89 — quatre-vingt-neuf
For numbers 80-89, Belgium follows the French method quatre-vingts, but Switzerland uses either octante or huitante, depending on the region.
So in Switzerland, 85 would be…
octante-cinq or huitante-cinq
In the next set of numbers, we continue with our same base of 80, rather than a new word for “ninety.” This means the number 90 will literally be “eighty-ten,” 91, “eighty-eleven,” etc.—just like with the 70s.
90 — quatre-vingt-dix
91 — quatre-vingt-onze
92 — quatre-vingt-douze
93 — quatre-vingt-treize
94 — quatre-vingt-quatorze
95 — quatre-vingt-quinze
96 — quatre-vingt-seize
97 — quatre-vingt-dix-sept
98 — quatre-vingt-dix-huit
99 — quatre-vingt-dix-neuf
Note that although 71 is written soixante-et-onze (with et), 81 and 91 are not:
Lastly, for 90-99, both Belgium and Switzerland use nonante. So nonante-cinq means 95. These counting methods are also used locally in parts of France near Belgium or Switzerland.
Counting Beyond 100 in French
(one) hundred — cent
(one) thousand — mille
10 thousand — dix-mille
(one) hundred thousand — cent-mille
(one) million — (un) million
(one) billion — (un) milliard
(one) trillion — (un) billion
(one) quadrillion — (un) billiard
I think cent and mille are the most interesting.
Think of all the words in English that stem from these:
With this knowledge, we can say complex numbers.
For example, the number 2,376,974 is deux millions trois-cent-soixante-seize-mille-neuf-cent-soixante-quatorze, always reading left to right.
Here it’s broken down into smaller parts, so you can see how I group together the millions, thousands and hundreds when saying the number:
2 376 974 — deux millions (two million)
2 376 974 — trois-cent-soixante-seize-mille (three hundred seventy-six thousand)
2 376 974 — neuf-cent-soixante-quatorze (nine hundred seventy-four)
Decimals and commas
For large numbers in French, groups of three numerals are usually separated by spaces. The English number 50,000 would thus be written as 50 000.
In France, the decimal is replaced with a comma. For example, 3.5 (three and a half) would be written as 3,5 in French and called trois virgule cinq.
Plural Numbers in French
If a number ends in an even cent (100) or quatre-vingt (80), it should be plural. Anything else is singular.
200 — deux-cents
380 — trois-cent-quatre-vingts
Compare this with the following:
250 is deux-cent-cinquante
385 is trois-cent-quatre-vingt-cinq
Note how cent and quatre-vingt lost their –s since they no longer end the written number.
Mille (1 000) is never plural, but multiples of million are, even if they don’t end with the written number.
So 2 500 000 is:
deux millions cinq-cent-mille
Cent isn’t plural because it’s grouped with mille, which is never plural. Note how million is not hyphenated.
We could also have 200 000 000, which is:
The million is plural, but so is the word cent because nothing else hyphenated follows it.
If a number is used to describe specific things, the plural rules don’t apply.
So we’d say…
la page deux-cent (page 200)
trois-cent portes (three hundred doors)
French Gender and Number Agreement
A number ending in one can agree in gender with whatever it’s modifying.
So the story “1,001 Nights” is translated as “Mille-et-une Nuits“ since nuit is feminine.
If un (one) is the last word in a phrase, it doesn’t agree in gender with the preceding noun. For example:
la page un — page one
French Colloquial Terms for Numbers
In common parlance, certain numbers are often said differently.
Think of how we say “a dozen” for 12. These are called noms numéraux (literally “numeral nouns,” or numerical nouns).
10 — une dizaine
une dizaine d’étudiants = dix étudiants (10 students)
12 — une douzaine
deux douzaines d’heures = vingt-quatre heures (24 hours)
20 — une vingtaine
30 — une trentaine
40 — une quarantaine
50 — une cinquantaine
60 — une soixantaine
100 — une centaine
1 000 — un millier
cinq milliers de visiteurs = (about) cinq mille visiteurs (around 5,000 visitors)
Notice the noms numéraux take an -s when plural.
These can be used either to describe exact numbers or rough estimations. For example:
une vingtaine de pommes — about 20 apples
Ordinal Numbers in French
Ordinal numbers in English are “first,” “second,” “third,” etc. This is easy in French.
Apart from premier/première (first), you tack on –ième to a number to turn it into an ordinal number.
2nd — deuxième
3rd — troisième
24th — vingt-quatrième
Apart from premier, these are gender-neutral.
How to Practice Counting in French
- Anytime you deal with numbers, think of them in French. I do this instinctively. If I check the time, I say to myself, “Il est huit heures.“ (It’s 8 a.m.) If I have to count something, I do it in French. So a recipe doesn’t call for 10 eggs, it calls for une dizaine d’œufs !
- Watch French documentaries. Documentaries abound in numbers, usually complicated ones featuring growth or decline over time and tons of years. Try to watch documentaries like this and write out any numbers they mention.
- Learn math in French. If you like math, YouTube and the Internet in general have great resources geared for French math students that would not only make you work with numbers but also teach you the vocab used in French mathematics.
- Practice with dictation. Once you’re familiar with the pronunciation of French numbers, you can listen to a song or watch a clip on YouTube or FluentU. You can note down the numbers down as you hear them, then check the transcript after. FluentU has interactive subtitles for its French videos, as well as a numbers flashcard deck for recorded dictation practice.
- Take online quizzes. Quizzes are an oldie but goodie, and there are many options online. For instance, Sporcle, an entertainment trivia website, offers a timed quiz on French numbers 1-20 and each subsequent tens set (30, 40, 50, etc.) up to 100. Quizlet is another popular option, offering quizzes plus flashcards and games.
- Practice French numbers in context. Grab a partner and delegate one person to play the role of the shopkeeper and the other to act as the customer. If you don’t have a partner, don’t sweat it—play both parts (or find one using a French language exchange app).
- Apply your numbers knowledge to money. Dealing with money is something you already do every day in English, and you’ll do it while abroad in a French-speaking country. Familiarize yourself with the euro and learn how to form sentences with French numbers and currency. YouLearnFrench has a great video that simulates an exchange between a shopper and employee at the grocery store.
French numbers can be puzzling even to advanced students, yet learning them is a rewarding experience that will put another piece of the French puzzle into place.
So get counting!