French Numbers: How To Count From One To Over A Trillion
- Written byAdrien Renault
- Read time13 mins
How confidently do you know your French numbers?
Not so much? 😊
They’re vital for so many reasons if you want to learn French, and if you’re living in a French-speaking country, you’ll need them to get by.
We use them when we write the date, schedule an appointment, when we’re invited for a friend’s housewarming party, go shopping… you name it.
Aside from your French course, you can familiarize yourself with French numbers — right up to a trillion — with a few simple tips that I’ve shared in this post.
As French cardinal numbers follow a pattern, and French ordinal numbers feature a cardinal root, you’ll discover that it isn’t too challenging to remember.
Table Of Contents:
Ready to get to grips with your French numbers?
Let’s make a start!
French numbers 0 to 20 (cardinals)
We’ll start small, namely with the French cardinal numbers from 0 to 20.
Take a look at the following table, which features the ones and the teens up to 20:
Quick tips on French numbers: full stops and spaces
Before we continue with our post on French numbers, here are a few quick tips that you might find helpful.
It concerns French numbers and their forms and will help you understand them a bit better. So, let’s tackle the forms different types of French numbers take before we continue.
French numbers and their forms: full stops
In English, we typically write numbers using full stops to separate decimals, and commas to separate thousands and millions — but this is different for French numbers.
French numbers use commas to separate decimal fractions (as a decimal point would), and full stops to separate thousands and millions.
As a side note, this is also the case for Spanish numbers, Italian numbers, Portuguese numbers, Romanian numbers, and for numbers that are part of regional dialects in countries that speak Romance languages.
So, if you’re familiar with another Romance language, or learning two Romance languages at the same time, the forms French numbers take should come naturally to you.
If you’re not, it’s time to start practicing!
French numbers, dates and postcodes: the importance of the space
French numbers form parts of various pieces of information — like dates and postcodes, so how do we tell these apart?
The space between certain numbers is essential for this, which tells you the difference between an ordinary number and a postcode, or an ordinary number and a date.
Say you wanted to write about the French revolution, and you wanted to mention in your report that it happened between 1789 and 1799.
You would need to keep in mind that these dates do not have a space between the thousands and the hundreds units.
If you wanted to talk about where you live and someone asks for your French address and postcode, you’d also need to bear in mind that postcodes don’t have a space either when you write them down.
On the other hand, numbers over 1,000 (which are used to quantify something) can feature a space or a decimal point located where the comma would be for English numbers over 1,000.
Keep this tip in mind when you’re writing, when you’re reading French historical news or reading directions, which are likely to contain dates.
It’s a key way to distinguish between French numbers and dates or postcodes.
French numbers 21 to 29
Let’s continue with our French numbers, then. Here are the numbers from 21 to 29
Now, here’s a tip for remembering your French numbers from 21 to 29.
Start by memorizing your cardinal numbers from one to nine. Then, try to remember the French number for 20, which is vingt. When you count past 20, you simply need to add the cardinal units number to the end of vingt.
This is just like in English, when you’re counting upwards from 21 to 29.
So, what is the French number for 28? Yes, it’s vingt-huit.
You should also try to keep in mind that the number 21 doesn’t follow this rule. While we’re at it, whether you’re saying 21, 31, 41 (and so on), the form of these French numbers includes the French phrase et:
This rule applies to French tens units up to 71, after which it changes slightly. We’ve covered this further down in this post, so keep reading.
Counting in tens to 100 in French
Now, let’s think about the tens units from 10 to 100 in French. You’ll find them in the following table:
It gets a little tricky here! Counting in tens from 10 to 60 follows a similar pattern to Spanish numbers.
You will have to memorise these tens units to become more confident when using and recognising them.
But to remember your tens from 70 to 100, our recommendation is to use simple mathematical calculations.
Don’t panic, we’ll explain it simply. The French number for 70 is soixante-dix. This is the same as saying ‘60 and 10’, or saying 60 and adding 10 to it.
So, to remember the French number for 70, just think of it in terms of 60 ‘and’ 10, or soixante-dix.
What about the French number for 80? Any ideas? It’s not related to the French cardinal number huit as you might expect.
Think of it this way — 80 in French (or quatre-vingts) is the same as saying 4 lots of 20. After you’ve memorised your cardinal numbers up to 20, as you’re counting, think of this mathematical calculation (4 lots of 20), and you’ll remember that 80, in French, is quatre-vingts.
It just takes a little practice!
90 in French is the same as combining the mathematical calculation we’ve provided for 80 and the calculation for 70. The French number for 90 is quatre-vingt-dix, or 4 lots of 20 add 10. See, you’re getting the hang of it already!
Alternatively, you could just try to memorise all of the French tens units.
This might work better for you if you’re not one for maths calculations.
Listening to French YouTube songs is one way to help you remember them — the catchier it is, the better!
Adding ones to tens (for French numbers between 71 and 80)
What you should try to remember when adding ones units to French tens units over 70 (up until 80) is that the ones units are teens.
What do we mean by that?
Well, if you wanted to write or say the number seventy-three in French, instead of soixante-dix-trois, which wouldn’t be correct, the number you add to the end would be treize. In this case, the number you’re looking for is soixante-treize.
Just remember, all you need to do is add the teens to the end of your tens.
In the table below, we’ve put together the French numbers with the ones units added to the end — just to clarify this.
Take a look:
Keep in mind that the et you can see in soixante-et-onze does not feature in the French number for 81 — quatre-vingt-un (which uses the cardinal French number un as well, instead of onze). And 90 — quatre-vingt-dix-onze — also doesn’t feature the conjunction et either. It’s something you’ll just have to remember.
Counting in 100s to 1,000 in French
Now, once you’ve reached 100, you might think things get more difficult with French numbers. The good news is that it gets easier!
If you want to say 100 in French, the number you need is cent. So, if you want to count to 1,000 in blocks of 100, you simply need to add the French cardinal units number to the beginning — just like in English where you would say one-hundred, two-hundred…
Adding tens units and ones units to the end your hundreds is simple, too. So, if you wanted to say 105 in French, just add the French cardinal number cinq to the end — this would be cent-cinq or one hundred and five.
All you need to do is remember your tens and ones units to construct bigger numbers, and you’ll soon be counting in French with ease!
The following table will clarify this for you:
Note that pluralising the French word for 100, cent, isn’t required when your number features tens or ones units.
For instance, note the difference between deux-cents and deux-cent-dix.
Pluralising the number two-hundred is required in French (which is the same for 100, 300, 400 etc), whereas when you add your ones or tens units (as in the number two-hundred and ten), pluralisation is not required in French.
Getting bigger — French numbers to 100,000
We’re now going to focus on numbers over 1,000 in French.
Here’s how to count beyond 1,000, up to 10,000. Keep in mind that there’s no need to abide by the pluralisation rule we’ve described for the 100s for these larger numbers.
Here we go:
Going even higher, you’ll need to keep in mind the French numbers and rules you’ve learned so far to continue counting.
So, just like in English, remember to add your hundreds units, tens units and your ones units after the thousands, in that order.
For example 2,175 in French would be deux-mille-cent-soixante-quinze, with the thousands units preceding the hundreds, tens and ones units.
Also, keep in mind the little tip that we’ve mentioned near the beginning of this post, instead of a comma, French numbers over 1,000 in their numeric form use a full stop. And if you wanted to add a decimal, the decimal point would become a comma.
French numbers — the biggest — 100,000 to one million
Just below, we’ve included a couple of examples of the biggest French numbers. Before that, though, how would you say 100,000 in French?
Well, it’s not as difficult as you might think.
You would just follow the same examples we’ve included above for the thousands. 100,000 in French would be cent-mille, 200,000 in French would be deux-cent-mille and so on.
So, what’s the French number for 600,000? Yes, it’s six-cent-mille!
We’re getting to the biggest numbers, now. These include one million, one billion and one trillion. Here they are in French:
|un million||One million|
|un milliard||One billion|
|un billion||One trillion|
What do you notice here?
It seems, at first glance that we’ve made some sort of error, right?
But don’t worry, we haven’t made a mistake. What you’ll need to remember is that some French numbers are ‘false friends’. Though it might appear that we’ve put un billion in the wrong place, it’s not an actual cognate of the English version.
Try not to get confused with these bigger numbers.
Memorising them is important so you don’t go around saying things like la population mondiale est de 7,9 billion (the global population is 7.9 trillion) — because, yes there are a lot of people on the planet, but you might get a few strange looks with French statements like these!
Ordinal numbers in French
Finally, we’ve included the ordinal numbers in French just below.
As the name suggests, these numbers are used to put things in order.
In English, the ordinal numbers are ‘first,’ ‘second,’ ‘third’… and so on. Mostly, the French ordinal numbers follow a similar pattern — they are cardinal numbers with the suffix ième added to the end.
Here they are in French:
|Les Nombres Ordinaux||Ordinal Numbers|
|le premier/la première||1st|
French numbers: remember them by quizzing yourself
We’re just about to wrap up this post, but remember to quiz yourself and keep practicing your French numbers.
If you’re just beginning, don’t forget to take a look at some French YouTube songs to help you start memorizing them.
When you get more confident, try using a random number generator to test yourself and see whether you can accurately translate the number into French.
Got any other tips for learning French numbers by heart?
Share them below!
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