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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)
0zéro
1un
2deux
3trois
4quatre
5cinq
6six
7sept
8huit
9neuf
10dix
11onze
12douze
13treize
14quatorze
15quinze
16seize
Other Unique Cardinal Numbers
vingt20
cinquante50
mille1000
trente30
† * soixante60
millionmillion
† quarante40
cent100
milliardbillion

† 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: 1718 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-sept17ten-seven
dix-huit18ten-eight
dix-neuf19ten-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. vingt – deux / twenty-two,  trente – trois / thirty-three,quarante – quatre / 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*-un21
trente-*et*-un31
quarante-*et*-un41
cinquante-*et*-un51
soixante-*et*-un61
Other Combination Numbers (22 to 69)
vingt-deux22quarante-six46
trente-trois33cinquante-sept57
trente-quatre34cinquante-huit58
quarante -cinq45soixante-neuf69

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-dix70soixante-*quinze*75
soixante-et–*onze*71soixante-*seize76
soixante-*douze*72soixante-*dix-sept77
soixante-*treize*73soixante-*dix-huit*78
soixante-*quatorze*74soixante-*dix-neuf*79

Fourth combination: 80 doesn’t follow on from 70.  Instead, 80 uses a   figurative multiplicationquatre-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-vingts80quatre-vingts-cinq85
quatre-vingts-un81quatre-vingts-six86
quatre-vingts-deux82quatre-vingts-sept87
quatre-vingts-trois83quatre-vingts-huit88
quatre-vingts-quatre84quatre-vingts-neuf89

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-dix90quatre-vingts-quinze95
quatre-vingts-onze91quatre-vingts-seize96
quatre-vingts-douze92quatre-vingts-dix-sept97
quatre-vingts-treize93quatre-vingts-dix-huit98
quatre-vingts-quatorze94quatre-vingts-dix-neuf99

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)
cent100cent onze111
cent un101cent vingt deux122
cent deux102cent trente trois133
cent trois103cent cinquante quatre154
cent quatre104cent soixante-quinze175
cent cinq105cent quatre-vingts-seize196

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 cents200deux cent onze111
trois cents300trois cent vingt deux322
quatre cents400quatre cent trente trois433
cinq cents500cinq cent cinquante quatre554
six cents600six cent soixante-cinq665
sept cents700sept cent soixante-seize776
huit cents800huit cent quatre-vingts-sept887
neuf cents900neuf cent quatre-vingts-dix-neuf999

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. 1,200,570un million     deux cent mille cinq cent soixante-dix).  For 1 billion to 999 billion, use    milliard (e.g. 7,382,570,106sept 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 –ièmecinquième.

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

Ordinal Numbers
premierfirst
deux*ième*second
trois*ième*third
quatr*ième*fourth
cinqu*ième*fifth
Ordinal Numbers
six*ième*sixth
sept*ième*seventh
huit*ième*eighth
neuv*ième*ninth
dix*ième*tenth
Ordinal Numbers
onz*ième*Eleventh
douz*ième*Twelfth
vingt*ième*twentieth
cinquant*ième*fiftieth
cent*ième*hundredth

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