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French Numbers: How To Count To A Million

French numbers

French numbers just like their English counterparts come in two flavors: cardinal** (e.g. un, deux, trois…** / one, two, three…) and ordinal** (e.g. premier, deuxième, troisième…** / first, second, third…). The good thing is that, apart from premier** / first, ordinal numbers** use their cardinal** cousins as roots, in most cases merely adding a -ième** ending to them.

1. Cardinal Numbers:

As in English, cardinal French numbers can be divided in two: numbers which are unique words and numbers which are a combination of other numbers.

Unique Numbers: from **** to sixteen, all numbers are unique words. So are the tens from 20 to 60. After that, hundreds use the unique base cent, thousands use mille, millions use million like English and billions use milliard.

Unique Cardinal Numbers (0-16)
0 zéro
1 un
2 deux
3 trois
4 quatre
5 cinq
6 six
7 sept
8 huit
9 neuf
10 dix
11 onze
12 douze
13 treize
14 quatorze
15 quinze
16 seize
Other Unique Cardinal Numbers
vingt 20
cinquante 50
mille 1000
trente 30
† * soixante 60
million million
† quarante 40
cent 100
milliard billion

† Note that even though 40, 50 and 60 are unique words, their roots are still quite recognizable (e.g. quatre for quarante, cinq for cinquante and six for soixante).

  • Here the x in soixante is pronounced like the s in the word sound.

Numbers built on Combinations of other Numbers: the words for the remaining French numbers, at least up to 999 billion, use different combinations of the 26 numbers above.

First combination: 17, 18 and 19 use the words for ten (e.g. dix) and the words for seven, eight and nine (e.g. sept, huit and neuf).

dix-sept 17 ten-seven
dix-huit 18 ten-eight
dix-neuf 19 ten-nine

Second combination: numbers from 21 to 69, except those ending with a 1 (e.g. 21, 31, 41, 51 and 61), use a combination of the words for the corresponding tens and units (e.g. vingtdeux / twenty-two, trentetrois / thirty-three,quarantequatre / forty-four, etc…). This is the same construction as English (e.g. twenty – two, thirty – three, forty – four, etc…). For the 5 numbers ending with a 1, it is necessary to add -et- / -and- between the two words. This addition of -et- also holds for 71 — but not 81 and 91 — even though the rules governing it are different.

Combination Numbers (21, 31, 41, 51, 61)
vingt-et-un 21
trente-et-un 31
quarante-et-un 41
cinquante-et-un 51
soixante-et-un 61
Other Combination Numbers (22 to 69)
vingt-deux 22 quarante-six 46
trente-trois 33 cinquante-sept 57
trente-quatre 34 cinquante-huit 58
quarante -cinq 45 soixante-neuf 69

Third combination: numbers from 70 to 79 behave as if you’d started counting again at sixty. 70 is soixante-dix / sixty-ten, 71 soixante-et-onze / sixty-eleven, 72 soixante-douze / sixty-twelve, etc…

Combination Numbers (70 … 79)
soixante-dix 70 soixante-quinze 75
soixante-et–onze 71 soixante-*seize 76
soixante-douze 72 soixante-*dix-sept 77
soixante-treize 73 soixante-dix-huit 78
soixante-quatorze 74 soixante-dix-neuf 79

Fourth combination: 80 doesn’t follow on from 70. Instead, 80 uses a figurative multiplication: quatre-vingts, literally four-twenties (or four times twenty). As with the 70’s, the 80’s behave as if the counter was reset, this time at 80. 80 is quatre-vingts / four-twenties, 81 quatre-vingts-un / four-twenties-one, 82 quatre-vingts-deux / four-twenties-two, etc…

Combination Numbers (80 … 89)
quatre-vingts 80 quatre-vingts-cinq 85
quatre-vingts-un 81 quatre-vingts-six 86
quatre-vingts-deux 82 quatre-vingts-sept 87
quatre-vingts-trois 83 quatre-vingts-huit 88
quatre-vingts-quatre 84 quatre-vingts-neuf 89

The 90’s follow on from the 80’s in the same way the 70’s continued on from the 60’s; this time the counter continues from 80:

Combination Numbers (90 … 99)
quatre-vingts-dix 90 quatre-vingts-quinze 95
quatre-vingts-onze 91 quatre-vingts-seize 96
quatre-vingts-douze 92 quatre-vingts-dix-sept 97
quatre-vingts-treize 93 quatre-vingts-dix-huit 98
quatre-vingts-quatorze 94 quatre-vingts-dix-neuf 99

Fifth combination: hundreds are built around cent. From 100 to 199, numbers use the following formula: cent + number with number being drawn from the 100 numbers we’ve already seen.

Combination Numbers (100 … 199)
cent 100 cent onze 111
cent un 101 cent vingt deux 122
cent deux 102 cent trente trois 133
cent trois 103 cent cinquante quatre 154
cent quatre 104 cent soixante-quinze 175
cent cinq 105 cent quatre-vingts-seize 196

From 200 to 999, the formula is number1 + cent + number2 with number1 going from 2 to 9 and number2 from 1 to 99.

Combination Numbers (200 … 999)
deux cents 200 deux cent onze 111
trois cents 300 trois cent vingt deux 322
quatre cents 400 quatre cent trente trois 433
cinq cents 500 cinq cent cinquante quatre 554
six cents 600 six cent soixante-cinq 665
sept cents 700 sept cent soixante-seize 776
huit cents 800 huit cent quatre-vingts-sept 887
neuf cents 900 neuf cent quatre-vingts-dix-neuf 999

Note that when cent is not followed by another number, it takes an -s ending to reflect the plural.

Beyond 999, numbers use mille to indicate thousands in the same way that numbers use cent to indicate hundreds, except that mille is invariant and never takes an -s. For 1 million to 999 million, use million (e.g. 1,200,570: un million deux cent mille cinq cent soixante-dix). For 1 billion to 999 billion, use milliard (e.g. 7,382,570,106: sept milliard trois cent quatre-vingts-deux million cinq cent soixante-dix mille cent six).

2. Ordinal Numbers:

As previously stated at the beginning of this lesson, ordinal numbers build on the root of their cardinal cousins by adding a –ième ending. The only exception is premier / first which doesn’t follow the rule at all. Beyond this, you need to keep track of only three things:

a) when a cardinal number ends in -e, the corresponding ordinal number drops the e before adding the –ième (e.g. quatre/four è quatrième/fourth, onze/eleven è onzième/eleventh).

b) the number cinq/five adds a -u before adding the –ième: cinquième.

c) the number neuf/nine transforms the final -f into a -v before adding the –ième: neuvième

Ordinal Numbers
premier first
deuxième second
troisième third
quatrième fourth
cinquième fifth
Ordinal Numbers
sixième sixth
septième seventh
huitième eighth
neuvième ninth
dixième tenth
Ordinal Numbers
onzième Eleventh
douzième Twelfth
vingtième twentieth
cinquantième fiftieth
centième hundredth

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