They’re all over the news.

You can’t go shopping without them.

And they’re even in your phone.

What are they?

**Numbers!**

Even though it can feel strange to learn something that’s so simple in English, you’ve gotta learn your French numbers. Because let’s face it—they’re everywhere!

Plus, knowing how to count will prevent you from awkward situations—like ordering 12 drinks when you just wanted two the next time you meet up with a friend.

With this guide, not only will you learn *how *to count in French, but we’ll also show you fun ways to practice counting, colloquial terms, how to say fractions and percents, ordinal numbers and even some basic math.

# The Complete Guide: How to Count in French

When I was learning French, I would read a passage at a steady pace, but when I got to a number, I’d pause and pronounce it with difficulty. Since numbers are literally everywhere, I had to get better with them. And the only way to get better is to practice. But if you crack open a French textbook, you’ll notice that surprisingly little space is given to the nitty-gritty of counting in French.

So apart from textbooks, how can you improve your ability to quickly and instinctively pronounce numbers in French?

## How to Practice Counting in French

Mastering counting poses unique challenges because not many French practice methods focus on it, but it’s easy to learn by daily practice.

**Anytime you deal with numbers, think of them in French.**I do this instinctively. If I check the time, I say to myself something like, “*Il est huit heures.*” (It’s 8 a.m.) Telling time however is another subject entirely! If I have to count something, I do it an 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 teach you the vocab used in French mathematics.

The above resources assume that you *already *know how to count somewhat, but if you’re at square one, meaning you’ve never tried counting in French before, you’ve come to the right place!

## Counting in French: Numbers 1 to 69

The first 69 numbers are very learner-friendly. Once you memorize the base numbers, all others are just combinations of the former.

### 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**These numbers are similar to numbers one to six, but with **– ze** tacked on.

Now we get to the first major departure from what we’re used to. Whereas the numbers 11-16 had their pronunciations changed to unique words, for 17-19, we simply say:

17 —* dix-sept*

18 —* dix-huit*

19 —* dix-neuf*

So the number seventeen is literally “ten-seven” in French, eighteen is “ten-eight,” and so forth. It’s anyone’s guess why these pronunciations weren’t changed like 11-16—but it makes it easy!

### 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.

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. So 35, for example, would be “thirty-five,” or * trente-cinq,* just like in English. Note that French accepts both hyphens and no hyphens in numbers, so some people would write

*for 21. To be consistent, I’m following the*

**“vingt et un”***Rectifications orthographiques du français en 1990,*which recommends putting a hyphen between each digit of a number

**.**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.

For example, 21 is *vingt- et-un *(literally: twenty-and-one) and

*41 is*

*quarante-*(literally: forty-and-one).

**et**-un**Counting in French: Numbers 70 to 99**

Most students can get from one to 69 without problems… and then they get to 70-99. These numbers follow an entirely different logic!

### Counting from 70 to 79 in French

So let’s go back to the last few numbers we were counting: Sixty-eight is *soixante-huit* and 69 is *soixante-neuf*. Well, 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*### Counting from 80 to 99 in French

If that wasn’t crazy enough, then 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*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:**

*quatre-vingt-un,*

*quatre-vingt-onze.*Ok, so why are these numbers so different?

The reason why French suddenly departs from its base 10 pattern to use a base 20 pattern for numbers 69-99 remains somewhat a mystery. Some experts think that French counting was originally base 20 like the ancient celts, but in the middle ages, new words like *vingt*, based on the Latin base 10, appeared. But this is just a theory.

### Counting in Belgium and Switzerland

The numbers up to 69 are the same everywhere, but in Belgium and Switzerland, 70 is called ** septante**. So for example, 75 would be

*septante-cinq*. For numbers 80-89, Belgium follows the French method

*quatre-vingts*, but Switzerland uses either

**or**

*octante***, depending on the region.**

*huitante*So in Switzerland, 85 would be *octante-cinq* or *huitante-cinq*. 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 in French: Numbers 100 and Above**

Once you memorize the numbers above 100, you’ll be all set to say any number.

### Powers of 10 in French: 100 | 1,000 | 10,000 | etc.

These are basically the last numbers we have to memorize.

(one) hundred —* cent*

(one) thousand —

*mille*ten thousand —

*dix-mille*(one) hundred thousand —

*cent-mille*(one) million —

*(un) million*(one) billion —

*(un) milliard*(one) trillion —

**(**

*un*)

**billion**(one) quadrillion —

**(**

*un*)

**billiard**Higher numbers can be found online. I think *cent* and *mille* are the most interesting. Think of all the words in English that stem from these: per**cent,** **cent**ennial, **cent**ury, **mille**nium, **milli**pede and many others. 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 is 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

We’re taught that you write large numbers with commas (50,000) and decimals with periods (50.25). 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. So the English 3.5 (three and a half) would be written as 3,5 in French, and called *trois virgule cinq.*

**Special Cases When Counting in French**

Some complex rules just require brute force memorization.

### Plural numbers

Basically, if a number ends in an even *cent *(100) or *quatre-vingt *(80), it should be plural. Anything else is singular.

200 is* deux-cents*

380 is* trois-cent-quatre-vingts*

Contrast 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 the written number.

So 2 500 000 is* deux million s cinq-cent-mille*.

**isn’t plural in that case because it’s grouped with**

*Cent**mille*, which is never plural. Note how

*million*is not hyphenated.

We could also have 200 000 000, which is *deux-cent s millions.* 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) or “*trois-cent portes*” (three hundred doors) with the singular * cent*.

### When numbers have genders

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. So we say, “*la page un*” and not “

*la page une*” for “page 1.”

### 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* — c

*inq 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. So if you have 21 apples, it’s okay to call them *une vingtaine de pommes* (about twenty apples).

### Fractions and percentages in French

Like we wouldn’t say “one over two” for “a half,” neither would the French. Here are some common French fractions:

1/2 —* un demi*

*une demi-tasse* — half a cup

*trois ans et demi —* three and a half years

1/3 —* un tiers*

*1/4 — un quar*

**t**

1/5 —* un cinquième*

1/10 —* un dixième*

1/100 —* un centième*

You get the idea. If the numerator is greater than one and the denominator is three or four, special rules apply:

3/4 —* trois-quarts *(note the plural)

2/3 —* deux-tiers*

Otherwise, fractions are formed like this: **[numerator]-[denominator + ième]**

4/5* — quatre-cinquième*

Percentages, or ** pourcentages**, are easy to say. For example, 23% is said, “

*vingt-trois pour cent.*”

### Ordinal numbers

Ordinal numbers in English look like “first,” “second,” “third,” etc. This is easy in French. Apart from ** premier/première** (first), you just tack on

**–**to a number to turn it into an ordinal number. For example:

*ième*second — * deuxième*third —

**twenty-fourth**

*troisième*

*—*

**vingt-quatrième**Apart from *premier*, these are gender neutral.

**Simple Math in French**

You had to guess where I was headed with fractions and percentages. Obviously we’re not in math class, but it’ll help you to know how math is taught to French kids, or at least to recognize the vocab.

### Basic math vocab:

Concentrating on arithmetic, the following words crop up a lot:

To add — **additionner/ajouter**

To subtract — **retrancher/soustraire**

To multiply — **multiplier**

To divide —** diviser**

Sum — **somme (f)/montant (m)**

Difference — **différence (f)**

Product — **produit (m)**

Quotient — **quotient**

To equal — **égaler**

Integer — **entier (m)**

Prime number — **nombre premier (m)**

Given (in math parlance) —** soit**

In class, you use the same format as we do when reading addition problems aloud:

**5 + 2** = ** cinq plus deux** (five plus two)

In subtraction, where we say “minus,” the French say *moins*:

**5 – 2** = *cinq moins deux*

Multiplication is the most interesting, because it’s literally the same as English:

**5 x 7** = ** cinq fois sept** (five times seven)

For division, like 5÷7 (five divided by seven), the French say, “*cinq divisé par sept.*” French math is done differently in many other ways, and you’d almost have to grow up there to appreciate that.

### How the French do simple math

Many math problems start out with a statement like, “*Soit x, une variable,…*” (Given x, a variable,…), then the problem statement. In my experience, the French introduce theory and advanced terminology to younger students than in the US.

**Money and Pricing in France**

One of the first applications of counting you’ll do as a tourist is to pay for something. In the interest of knowing what you’re paying, you need to know how things are priced in France.

### Current and historical currencies in France and francophone countries

Today, France (and Belgium) use the euro. Until 2002, however, France used the *franc* or *nouveau franc* (F). Switzerland, having never adopted the euro, uses the Swiss franc. Some countries in Africa also use currencies called *franc*.

### Denominations of francs and euros

The euro, like the *franc,* is counted in *centimes*, like our cents. Coins and bills are minted for:

1 *centime*

5 *centimes*

10 *centimes*

20 *centimes*

50 *centimes*

1 *euro*

2 *euros*

5 *euros*

10** euros **

20** euros **

50** euros**

100 *euros*

200 *euros*

500 *euros*

Euro bills are very cool looking. Each one illustrates a place or scene significant to all Europeans. Check them out here.

Sometimes people referred to one franc as a *balle**,* just like how we sometimes say “buck” for a dollar. Similarly, ** sou** was a colloquial term for a

*centime*. These words can still be used to refer to euros, although people who grew up with francs sometimes get confused when

*balles*is used to refer to something other than francs.

### How are prices displayed and pronounced?

In francs or euros, a price is labeled the number followed by the currency symbol. So a toy that costs 5 euros and 50 cents would be labeled 5,50 € and pronounced *cinq euros cinquante*. Notice how the € symbol comes after the price.

### How to ask for the price of something?

If ever you can’t find a price tag, just say, * “Combien coûte… ?”* as in

*“Combien coûte le chapeau ?”*(How much does the hat cost?) or for plural,

*“Combien coûtent les bananes ?”*(How much do the bananas cost?)

If you’re holding something or pointing (say you don’t know the word), say: * “Combien ça coûte?”* (How much does it/this cost?)

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!

If you *liked* this post, something tells me that you'll *love* FluentU, the best way to learn French with real-world videos.

## Comments are closed.