Numbers & counting

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How to count in French - Forming and expressing numbers

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1. Cardinal numbers - les chiffres et les nombres

Cardinal numbers are the numbers that we use for counting or designating quantity : French uses the word "chiffre" to designate an individual digit, i.e. digits from 0 to 9, and "nombre" to designate quantity - which is limitless.  So 26, vingt-six, is a "nombre" made up of two "chiffres".

Hyphens: in traditional French, hypens are used between words for figures below 100 except when et is used between two digits. The same applies when figures below 100 apply to thousands or millions (see section 4 below).

Following the Academy's 1990 recommendations, hyphens are used to link all the words making up a number, except where et is used. The examples below use the traditional rules.

2. Numbers from 0 to 100 - de zéro à cent

The number 0 is expressed as zéro , and occasionally as nul

Here are the important cardinal numbers between one and a hundred, which can serve as models for other numbers.  

1 un 11 onze 21 vingt et un
2 deux 12 douze 22 vingt-deux
3 trois 13 treize 30 trente
4 quatre 14 quatorze 40 quarante
5 cinq 15 quinze 50 cinquante
6 six 16 seize 60 soixante
7 sept 17 dix-sept 70 soixante-dix
8 huit 18 dix-huit 80 quatre-vingts
9 neuf 19 dix-neuf 90 quatre-vingt-dix
10 dix 20 vingt 100 cent
Take note in particular of the numbers written in red, which are irregular compared to others in their series. Also take great care with the seventies and nineties, and to a lesser extent the eighties....
70 soixante-dix 80 quatre-vingts 90 quatre-vingt-dix
71 soixante et onze 81 quatre-vingt-un 91 quatre-vingt-onze
72 soixante-douze 82 quatre-vingt-deux 92 quatre-vingt-douze
73 soixante-treize 83 quatre-vingt-trois 93 quatre-vingt-treize
74 soixante-quatorze 84 quatre-vingt-quatre 94 quatre-vingt-quatorze
75 soixante-quinze 85 quatre-vingt-cinq 95 quatre-vingt-quinze
76 soixante-seize 86 quatre-vingt-six 96 quatre-vingt-seize
77 soixante-dix-sept 87 quatre-vingt-sept 97 quatre-vingt-dix-sept
78 soixante-dix-huit 88 quatre-vingt-huit 98 quatre-vingt-dix-huit
79 soixante-dix-neuf 89 quatre-vingt-neuf 99 quatre-vingt-dix-neuf

Quatre-vingt or quatre-vingts ?

The number "quatre-vingt" only takes an s in round numbers, i.e. quantities ending in 80: quatre-vingts, or deux cent quatre-vingts etc. For all other numbers it is invariable, as in the examples above such as  quatre-vingt-six.. It also takes an s when followed by a noun: Le tour du monde en quatre-vingts jours = Around the world in eighty days.

Regional variations

3. Numbers from 101 to 999 - les nombres à trois chiffres

From the examples below, all other three-digit numbers in French can be formed.
101 cent un 366 trois cent soixante-six
111 cent onze 482 quatre cent quatre-vingt-deux
121 cent vingt et un 547 cinq cent quarante-sept
122 cent vingt-deux 611 six cent onze
200 deux cents 671 six cent soixante et onze
293 deux cent quatre-vingt-treize 899 huit cent quatre-vingt-dix-neuf

Hundreds in the plural

The number "cent" only takes an s in round numbers: deux cents, trois cents etc. For all other numbers it is invariable, as in the examples above such as  six cent onze
To express "hundreds" as an imprecise quantity, French does not use the numeral cents but the noun centaines
There were hundreds of people at the concert.
Il y avait des centaines de personnes au concert

4. Numbers from 1000 to 1,000,000

1000 mille 4632 quatre mille six cent trente-deux
1001 mille et un or mille un 10,000 dix mille
1082 mille quatre-vingt-deux 10,174 dix mille cent soixante-quatorze
1147 mille cent quarante-sept or onze cent quarante-sept 85,428 quatre-vingt-cinq mille quatre cent vingt-huit
1301 mille trois cent un 100,000 Cent mille
4400 quatre mille quatre cents 999,482 neuf cent quatre-vingt-dix-neuf mille quatre cent quatre-vingt-deux

5. Numbers greater than a million

The same general principles apply as above. The number simply starts with a quantity of millions.

1,007,018 = Un million sept mille dix-huit
2,015,222 = Deux millions quinze mille deux cent vingt-deux.
3,003,300 = Trois millions trois mille trois cents
3,033,333 = Trois millions trente-trois mille trois cent trente-trois

6. General points

Plural forms of cent, mille and million - all different !

Cent takes an s in the plural only when it is a round figure  (-00)
Mille never takes an s when used as a number. It only takes an s when used with the meaning of the English word "miles", particularly referring to nautical miles. 
Million  is a noun, so always takes an s when used in the plural.  Thus for 1,000,000, we have to say un million , not just million. Since it is a noun, it must be followed by de when referring to a quantity of something.

To understand the difference, just compare these words used in a singular context : 124 with 1024 and then with 1,000,024
Cent vingt-quatre / mille vingt-quatre but un million vingt-quatre.  

More examples
  • Ça coûte deux cents euros,
  • Ça coûte deux mille euros,
  • Ça coûte deux millions d'euros,
La visibilité en mer est réduite à deux milles nautiques.

Writing numbers in figures in French

IMPORTANT : DO NOT SEPARATE DIGITS WITH COMMAS when writing large figures in French. French uses the comma, not the decimal point,  as the decimal separator. Mi    llions and thousands and hundreds are separated by a space, not by a comma.
   Thus the number one million seven hundred thousand  will be written :
  • 1,700,000 in English, but
  • 1 700 000 in French

When to use hyphens in numbers ?

Hyphens are traditionally used to link the components in numbers between 17 and 99 whenever these are not linked by the word et. For example "quatre-vingt-treize" but "soixante et onze". 
  This is true for all parts of a number, so we use hyphens when appropriate when expressing a number of millions, a number of thousands, a number of hundreds, and the part of a number below a hundred.
  Since 1990, the French Academy recommends using hyphens between all the elements of a number that is written in words, unless elements are joined by et, so  85 428 is written, according to the new rules:
rather than
quatre-vingt-cinq mille quatre cent vingt-huit

Continue to ordinals (first, second etc.)

Return to Grammar index

More about numbers: Numbers and counting in English

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