how to count in french

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).

Contents

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

15quinze

16seize

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.

For example:

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.

For example:

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-dixThe 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:

quatre-vingt-un

quatre-vingt-onze

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:

percent

centennial

century

millenium

millipede

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 millioncinq-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:

deux-centmillions

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 000un 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.

For example:

2nd — deuxième

3rd — troisième

24thvingt-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!

Enter your e-mail address to get your free PDF!

We hate SPAM and promise to keep your email address safe

Close