One of the most boring and uninteresting parts of learning French is learning how to count numbers. Unfortunately for us French learners, learning how to count numbers is inevitable and has to be done if we ever want to achieve fluency. There’s just simply no way around it.
Although at face value counting in French may seem simple and almost something that can be overlooked, it’s one of the most important parts of your French-learning journey.
For many, being able to comfortably use numbers in a foreign language is real proof of fluency. This guide to counting in French will help you get over the numbers hump and on to the stuff that you probably really want to learn.
How to Count Numbers in French
Let’s start by looking at how to count basic numbers in French starting with 0.
zéro – 0
un – 1
deux – 2
trois – 3
quatre – 4
cinq – 5
six – 6
sept – 7
huit – 8
neuf – 9
dix – 10
onze – 11
douze – 12
treize – 13
quatorze – 14
quinze – 15
seize – 16
dix-sept – 17
dix-huit – 18
dix-neuf – 19
Let’s pause for a second. You’ll notice that the numbers, 17, 18, and 19 are translated literally as ten-seven, ten-eight and ten-nine. This is a little different than the other numbers we’ve gone over so far, but definitely not anything too difficult for the average French learner.
Let’s continue counting…
vingt – 20
vingt-et-un – 21
vingt-deux – 22
vingt-trois – 23
vingt-quatre – 24
vingt-cinq – 25
vingt-six – 26
vingt-sept – 27
vingt-huit – 28
vingt-neuf – 29
The only thing that should be noticed with the above numbers is that 21 is translated literally as twenty and one whereas the other numbers don’t have the extra et. This is also the case for trente-et-un (31), quarante-et-un (41), cinquante-et-un (51), and soixante-et-un (61).
Let’s continue our list…
trente – 30
trente-et-un – 31
trente-deux – 32
trente-trois – 33
trente-cinq – 35
trente-six – 36
trente-sept – 37
trente-huit – 38
trente-neuf – 39
quarante – 40
quarante-et-un – 41
quarante-trois – 43
quarante-quatre – 44
quarante-cinq – 45
quarante-six – 46
quarante-sept – 47
quarante-huit – 48
quarante-neuf – 49
cinquante – 50
cinquante-et-un – 51
cinquante-deux – 52
cinquante-trois – 53
cinquante-quatre – 54
cinquante-cinq – 55
cinquante-six – 56
cinquante-sept – 57
cinquante-huit – 58
cinquante-neuf – 59
soixante – 60
soixante-et-un – 61
soixante-deux – 62
soixante-trois – 63
soixante-quatre – 64
soixante-cinq – 65
soixante-six – 66
soixante-sept – 67
soixante-huit – 68
soixante-neuf – 69
Let’s pause again. Up until now the patterns between numbers have been fairly routine. However, things change just a bit once you reach 70.
Somewhat similar to dix-sept (17), dix-huit (18) and dix-neuf (19), the number 70 in French is soixante-dix which is literally sixty-ten. The rest of the numbers follow the same pattern as numbers 11-19.
soixante-dix – 70
soixante-et-onze – 71
soixante-douze – 72
soixante-treize – 73
soixante-quatorze – 74
soixante-quinze – 75
soixante-seize – 76
soixante-dix-sept – 77
soixante-dix-huit – 78
soixante-dix-neuf – 79
The number 80 in French is yet again different from the rest of the numbers we’ve gone over thus far. The number 80 in French is quatre-vingt (literally translated as four-twenty).
When getting up to 90, we follow the same pattern as the number 70 does with the number 60. Another quick thing to remember is 81 doesn’t include et like 31, 41, etc.. It’s simply quatre-vingt-un.
quatre-vingt – 80
quatre-vingt-un – 81
quatre-vingt-deux – 82
quatre-vingt-trois – 83
quatre-vingt-quatre – 84
quatre-vingt-cinq – 85
quatre-vingt-six – 86
quatre-vingt-sept – 87
quatre-vingt-huit – 88
quatre-vingt-neuf – 89
quatre-vingt-dix – 90
quatre-vingt-onze – 91
quatre-vingt-deux – 92
quatre-vingt-treize – 93
quatre-vingt-quatorze – 94
quatre-vingt-quinze – 95
quatre-vingt-seize – 96
quatre-vingt-dix-sept – 97
quatre-vingt-dix-huit – 98
quatre-vingt-dix-neuf – 99
Exceptions to soixante-dix, quatre-vingt and quatre-vingt-dix
There are actually a few exceptions to the previously mentioned rules regarding the numbers soixante-dix (70), quatre-vingt (80) and quatre-vingt-dix (90).
If you are in either Switzerland or Belgium you’ll learn soixante-dix (70) as septante, quatre-vingt (80) as octante or huitante and quatre-vingt-dix (90) as nonante.
The ways we discussed previously are the most common ways you’ll hear in standard French however.
Counting Beyond 100 in French
If you can count confidently up to 100 in French then you should be able to say any other number that you want. All you really have to do at this point is learn the main numbers. Here’s a list of the ones you’ll likely have to use at some point.
Cent – 100 (hundred)
Mille – 1,000 (thousand)
Dix-mille – 10,000 (ten thousand)
Cent-mille – 100,000 (one hundred thousand)
Un million – 1,000,000 (million)
Un milliard – 1,000,000,000 (billion)
Un billion – 1,000,000,000,000 (trillion)
As numbers never end there are course more numbers than those listed here. However as I’m sure you’re already aware, you’ll probably never have to go much higher than what we’ve talked about in this list.
One important thing to remember when using cent or mille is that you don’t need to use un (one) as in un cent cinquante (one hundred fifty) or un mille quinze (one thousand fifteen). Just say cent cinquante and mille quinze.
If you want to say two, three, four hundred, etc.. then you can of course place the number before cent and mille. Examples are trois-cent-vingt-trois (323) and sept-mille-deux-cent-deux (7,202).
In English, numbers of a thousand or more have commas placed after each three numerals. In French however we usually use spaces, periods or sometimes nothing at all. This means that a number like 10,000 would be written as 10 000 or 10.000.
Another quick tip that you should keep in mind when writing out numbers in French is that certain numbers become plural in certain situations.
The most common times this occurs are when a number ends in quatre-vingt (80) or cent (100). This means that two hundred would be written as deux cents and five hundred eighty would be written as cinq-cent-quatre-vingts.
This only applies however if quatre-vingt or cent appears at the end of the number. If they don’t appear at the end then you don’t make them plural.
Million is also placed in the plural and contrary to cent and quatre-vingt it doesn’t have to be at the end of the number. For example, 3 400 000 becomes trois millions quatre-cent-mille.
For one reason or another trois million does not get hyphenated. Because it doesn’t get hyphenated cent also gets placed in the plural when it come before the number million. This means 400.000.000 is written as quatre-cents millions. Mille is never plural.
According to L’Académie française numbers such as million, milliers and milliard don’t get hyphenated. However less and less people are following this rule. There is also some confusion one exactly which numbers get hyphenated as L’Académie française made some updates in 1990.
At the end of the day, most French speakers probably don’t even know the exact rules themselves and aren’t going to hassle you if you accidentally get it wrong.
Yes, this is fairly complicated but fortunately most people simply write out the numbers than write them out as words.
How to Count Numbers in French with Objects
Fortunately for us, it’s actually pretty easy to state the quantity of something in French. For the most part you just place the number next to the object just like you would do in English. Here are some examples.
Deux livres – Two books
Cinq voitures – Five cars
Dix maisons – Ten houses
Pretty easy right? There are only a few situations where this changes. The first is if the number of the object ends in 1 and is feminine. This is only not the case if the number one is at the end of the sentence and comes after the object.
Cinq-cent-vingt-et-une voitures – Five hundred twenty-one cars (because the word voiture is feminine un becomes une here)
Deux-mille-trois-cent-quarante-et-une coccinelles – Two thousand three hundred forty one ladybugs (just like in the previous example un becomes une because coccinelles is feminine.)
The second situation where this changes is when you’re using a large number that requires the use of un such as un million or un milliard. When this is the case you have to add de after the number and before the object. Putting this into action gives us..
Un million de chats – A million cats
Un milliard d’euros – A million euros
Deux million de chaussettes – Two million socks
Approximating Numbers in French
The following are ways to approximate numbers when you aren’t exactly sure (or potentially are) about how much of a given thing you are talking about. The list of these is as follows.
Une dizaine – 10 or 10ish
Une demi-douzaine – 6 or 6ish
Une douzaine – 12 or 12ish
Une vingtaine – 20 or 20ish
Une trentaine – 30 or 30ish
Une quarantaine – 40 or 40ish
Une cinquantaine – 50 or 50ish
Une soixantaine – 60 or 60ish
Une soixante-dizaine – 70 or 70ish (not used very often, but easily understood)
Une quatre-vingtaine – 80 or 80ish (not used very often, but easily understood)
Une quatre-vingt-dizaine – 90 or 90ish (not used very often, but easily understood)
Une centaine – 100 or 100ish
Un millier – 1,000 or 1,000ish
Just like with the numbers 70, 80, and 90 the words septantaine, octantaine and nonantaine do exist, but are primarily used in Belgium and Switzerland.
How to Say First, Second, Third, etc… in French
If some of the previous information was too complicated for you you can rest assured knowing that this next part is actually quite easy. For the most part all you have to do here is to add the suffix -ième onto the number and you’re good.
This is the equivalent of adding th or rd to a number as in 3rd or 8th. The only exception to this rule in French is for the number one which is premier or première if the object is feminine.
Première – first
Deuxième – second
Troisième – third
Quatrième – fourth
Cinqième – fifth
Sixième – sixth
Septième – seventh
Huitième – eighth
Neuvième – ninth
Dixième – tenth
How to Say Fractions in French
Fractions in French follow a similar pattern with a couple of exceptions.
Un demi – one half (1/2)
Un tiers – one third (1/3)
Un quart – one fourth (1/4) – this becomes plural if the number is greater than one as in trois-quarts.
Un cinquième – one fifth (1/5)
Un sixième – one sixth (1/6)
Un septième – one seventh (1/7)
Un huitième – one eighth (1/8)
Un neuvième – one ninth (1/9)
Un dixième – one tenth (1/10)
How to Say Percentages in French
You’ll also be happy to learn that saying percentages in French is rather easy as well. All you really have to do is place your number next to pour cent and you’re all set. So forty percent becomes quarante pour cent and fifty-five percent becomes cinquante-cinq pour cent.
Contrary to the English word percent, pour cent is always written as two words except in situations where what you are talking about is something that is not quantifiable. Here is an example:
Cinq pour cent du group parlaient français – Five percent of the group spoke French
Quelques pourcent du group parlaient français – A few percentage points of the group spoke French (You may also see quelques pour-cent in this type of situation, but it is less common than pourcents.)
Here is a pretty good resource that explains the difference between pour cent and pourcent in French.
How to Use Numbers in Math in French
Unfortunately for us French learners math doesn’t get any easier just because it’s in French. However, doing simple equations is still straightforward. Let’s take a look at how to plug numbers into simple math equations.
Let’s start with some French addition. The official way to add two numbers together in French is to say __ plus __ égale ___.
Here are some examples:
cinq plus deux égale sept – five plus two equals seven
un plus trois égale quatre – one plus three equals four
six plus huit égale fourteen – six plus eight equals fourteen
The above method is the official way to add numbers together in French, but there are more informal ways to add numbers together. These include ___ et ___ font ___ and ___ et ___, ca fait ___. Below are some examples:
deux et deux font quatre – two plus two equals four (literally: two and two makes four)
trois et deux, ça fait cinq – three plus two equals five (literally: three and two, that makes five)
If you don’t want want to use the two above informal methods you don’t have to. Just make sure that if you hear or read them somewhere you understand without a problem.
Let’s move on to subtraction..
To subtract numbers in French you say ___ moins ___ égale ___. Some examples are…
cinq moins deux égale trois – five minus two equals three
huit moins un égale sept – eight minus one equals seven
deux moins un égale un – two minus one equals one
Just like with addition, there are a couple of words you can use for multiplication in French. The first way is ___ multiplié par ___ égale ___. The second way, which is a little bit easier and more informal is to say ___ fois ___ font ___.
cinq multiplié par deux égale dix – five multiplied by two equals ten
deux multiplié par trois égale six – two multiplied by three equals six
quatre multiplié par un égale quatre – four multiplied by one equals four
Using the second way of multiplying we get…
deux fois deux font quatre – two times two equals four (two times two makes four)
sept fois trois font vingt-et-un – seven times three equals twenty-one (seven times three makes twenty-one)
cinq fois cinq font vingt-cinq – five times five equals twenty-five (five times five makes twenty-five)
The last math-related vocabulary we’re going to talk about is division. Simply put, to say divided by in French you say divisé par. Take a look at the below examples.
quatre divisé par deux égale deux – four divided by two equals two
quinze divisé par cinq égale trois – fifteen divided by five equals three
six divisé par trois égale deux – six divided by three equals deux
One last note that is something that a lot of people debate about. When saying equals as in deux plus deux égale quatre you’ll also see égalent or even égal. The truth is people tend to feel very strongly about which one is correct.
Égale is the most correct although Égalent is also widely accepted (Égalent comes from the verb Égaler and seeing as it’s common to say deux et deux FONT quatre, people naturally assume that it’s okay to use égalent.)
How to Count using Currency in French
The last thing we’re going to talk about here is how to count money.
As you’re probably aware, France is one of the many European countries that uses the euro for their currency. Counting numbers with euros is just as easy as you would imagine with no translation needed.
The equivalent of “cents” in French is centimes. So 5 cents would become 5 centimes.
Putting euros and centimes together in number form you get
1,30 € (pronounced un euro cinquante)
8,90 € (pronounced huit euros quatre-vingt-dix)
3,60 € (pronounced trois euros soixante)
Don’t forget that in French they use commas instead of periods.
In order to make the € sign type ALT + 0128 on a PC and OPTION + SHIFT + 2 on a Mac. If this is too difficult to remember you can always look for a euro symbol online, copy it and paste it wherever you need it.
For most French learners, numbers are something that can really take a while to learn and honestly aren’t that fun to learn. Unlike other vocabulary that can be interesting and even motivating to French learners, numbers are boring and uninteresting.
However if you just take a little bit of time to memorize everything in this post then you should be able to be comfortable enough with numbers to use them in conversation.
How do you learn French numbers? What techniques do you use or have you used in the past? Comment below and tell us all about them.