French Numbers, Decimals and Fractions 

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In this section, we are going to cover French numbers and also learn to tell time in French.

Counting rhymes and French tradition are tightly entertwined. Through simple and catchy rhyming songs, French and francophone children past and present have long enjoyed and still continue to enjoy the power of numbers, and many more in the future will as well.

Whether you find yourself in a classroom or shopping or just balancing a book from the comfort of your home, knowing your numbers is a necessity of life. As kids we also engage in numerous counting games, we play card games which are clearly marked with numbers, board games with dice requiring us to count up or down a number of cells. The truth is we can't escape numbers no matter where we are or what we do. 

All this to say that mastering your French numbers can and will be very useful to you, down the road, whether you visit a French speaking-country or decide you want to a sing a fun/funny counting rhyme to your child on a beautiful evening

The following will give you a solid foundtaion in French numbers. Take a look below now

1. Explaining the 2 Types of Numbers

The two types of numbers are: 

  • The cardinal numbers: un (1/one); deux (2/two); dix (10/ten), etc. Cardinal numbers are mainly used to count things.
  • The ordinal numbers: le premier (1st/one); le deuxième (2nd/second); le dixième (10th/tenth), etc. Ordinal numbers, as the name "order" itself suggests, are mainly used to order things in a sequence. 

Read This First: In 1990, the French language underwent an important orthographic reform. The numbers category was affected by this reform and the use of hyphens for compound numbers (involving more than 1 digit) has become the default rule, while it wasn't prior to 1990. There's much, much more to say on that subject, and, as always, I will be available for your questions and comments if you have any relating to that topic.

1.1 Cardinal numbers explained

Les nombres cardinaux (Cardinal numbers) are used under 4 main situations:

    1. Counting Things: --> "André a deux voitures". [Andrew has two cars
    2. Giving Years: --> "Je suis venu en Amérique en 2001". [I came to America in 2001]. 
    3. Giving Your Age: --> "J'ai trente-huit ans". [I am thirty-eight].
    4. Giving Your Telephone Numbers: --> "Mon numéro de téléphone est le 22-33-44". [My phone number is 22-33-44]
    5. Placing a king/queen in a sequence of fellow kings/queens. "Henri II (deux)" [Henri the 2nd]

Note: Rule #5: I know, rule #5 is different to current Englis usage. In ENG, you use an ordinal number to position a king/queen in a sequence or dynasty, but in French you must use a cardinal number  (Richard 3rd (III)), is "Richard trois" in French.

1.2 Ordinal numbers explained

    1. Placing things in a sequence: --> "André est le premier à la soirée". [Andrew is the first at the party
    2. Having Birthdays: --> "C'est mon seizième anniversaire". [It's my sixteenth birthday]. 
    3. Referring to Centuries: --> "Darwin est né au dixième siècle". [Darwin was born in the nineteenth century].
    4. Giving the Floor of a building: --> "J'habite au troisième étage". I live on the third floor.

2. Cardinal Numbers

2.1 French cardinal numbers from 1 to 69

NUMBERS

NUMBERS TO LETTERS

NUMBERS

NUMBERS TO LETTERS

un

deux

trois

quatre

cinq

six

sept

huit

neuf

dix

onze

douze

treize

quatorze

quinze

seize

dix-sept

dix-huit

dix-neuf

vingt

vingt et un

vingt-deux

vingt-trois

vingt-quatre

vingt-cinq

vingt-six

vingt-sept

vingt-huit

vingt-neuf

trente

Note: It gets much easier between 30 and 70 as you will see below. To read the numbers in-between (31, 32,... 46, 47... 55, 56, etc) simply base your reading on the same format used for 21, 22, 23... It's that simple.

trente-et-un

quarante

quarante-et-un

cinquante

cinquante-et-un

soixante

soixante-et-un

soixante-dix

2.2 from 70 to 80: obstacle No1

Note: The number 70 in French is in fact read 60(+)10. And the number 71 is thus read 60(+)11. This may be a little tricky to many new learners. So let's drill down the numbers from 71-79. 

soixante-onze

soixante-douze

soixante-treize

soixante-quatorze

soixante-quinze

soixante-seize

soixante-dix-sept

soixante-dix-huit

soixante-dix-neuf

quatre-vingts

2.3 from 80-90: obstacle No2

NUMBERS

NUMBERS TO LETTERS

NUMBERS

NUMBERS TO LETTERS

Note: The French reading for number 80 involves doing some math ( I know, crazy right?) -->  4*20 [quatre-vingts] (in other words, 4 times 20). Notice the S at the end of quatre-vingts. Drop the S for 81, 82...89. 

quatre-vingt-un

quatre-vingt-deux

quatre-vingt-trois

quatre-vingt-deux

quatre-vingt-cinq

quatre-vingt-six

quatre-vingt-sept

quatre-vingt-huit

quatre-vingt-neuf

quatre-vingt-dix

2.4 from 90 to 99: obstacle No3

NUMBERS

NUMBERS TO LETTERS

NUMBERS

NUMBERS TO LETTERS

Note: Just as 70 is read 60(+)10 [soixante-dix], the number 90 is read 80(+)10 [quatre-vingt-dix]. For 91, 92, 93..., just replace the "dix" [10] in that number with onze [11], douze [12], treize [13], etc. Check how it's done below.

quatre-vingt-onze

quatre-vingt-douze

quatre-vingt-treize

quatre-vingt-quatorze

quatre-vingt-quinze

quatre-vingt-seize

quatre-vingt-dix-sept

quatre-vingt-dix-huit

quatre-vingt-dix-neuf

2.5 Large numbers

NUMBERS

NUMBERS TO LETTERS

NUMBERS

NUMBERS TO LETTERS

Note: 100 [cent] takes an [s] in the plural when it is multiplied AND has no numeral placed after it, e.g. 200--> deux cents, 300--> trois cents. [Exception with dates: e.g 1900 --> mille neuf cent (no [s] to "cent"]
But if "cent" is followed by another numeral, the [s] is dropped: e.g. 201--> deux-cent-un.

cent

cent-un

cent-deux

cent-trois

deux cents

trois cents

quatre cents

cinq cents

six cents

sept cents

huit cents

neuf cents

Important: French numbers in the thousands and above are usually separated with a dot or more, but never a comma like in English. So 1,000 (one thousand) is written 1.000 in French and 1,000,000 (one million) is 1.000.000. In French, this dot placed in the middle of the number will never turn that number into a decimal. Instead it makes it a number in the thousands or more.

mille

mille un

mille deux cents

mille deux-cent-cinq

deux mille

dix mille

cent mille

un million

deux-cent-trente-quatre millions cinq-cent-soixante-sept mille huit-cent-quatre-vingt-dix

un milliard

3. Ordinal Numbers

3.1 Ordinal numbers from 1st to 90th

NUMBERS

NUMBERS TO LETTERS

NUMBERS

NUMBERS TO LETTERS

premier (-ère)

deuxième

troisième

quatrième

cinquième

sixième

septième

huitième

neuvième

dixième

onzième

douzième

treizième

quatorzième

quinzième

seizième

dix-septième

dix-huitième

dix-neuvième

vingtième

vingt-et-unième

vingt-deuxième

vingt-troisième

trentième

vingt-troisième

trentième

vingt-troisième

trentième

vingt-troisième

trentième

quarantième

cinquantième

soixantième

soixante-dixième

quatre-vingtième

quatre-vingt-dixième

3.2 Large ordinal numbers from 100th to billionth

NUMBERS

NUMBERS TO LETTERS

NUMBERS

NUMBERS TO LETTERS

centième

cent-et-unième

deux-centième

trois-centième

deux-centième

trois-centième

deux-centième

trois-centième

millième

millionième

milliardième

4. Fractions and Decimals

4.1 Reading fractions in French

I've decided to list some of the most common fractions used in daily French usage. For those of you French learners doing routine arithmetical calculations whether at the cash register or gas station, or shopping even for common countable food items, you will find these to be particularly relevant  

NUMBERS

NUMBERS TO LETTERS

NUMBERS

NUMBERS TO LETTERS

un demi

un tiers

deux tiers

un quart

trois quarts

un cinquième

deux cinquième

un sixième

un septième

un huitième

un neuvième

un dixième

un onzième

un douzième

un vingtième

trois centième

un millième

un millionième

4.2 Reading decimals in French

To write French decimals, you must use commas instead of dots [point]. A typical example of that would be the fraction 5/2 = 2,5 (not 2.5). Check below for examples of pronunciation.  

NUMBERS

NUMBERS TO LETTERS

NUMBERS

NUMBERS TO LETTERS

zéro virgule trentre-trois

neuf virgule soixante-et-un

zéro virgule trentre-trois

treize virgule huit

cent-cinq virgule quarante-sept

deux-mille-cinq virgule six-cent-quarante-neuf

4.3 Reading prices with decimals in French

An exception to the rule above (on decimal reading) is apparent when reading prices in French. If the prices involve a whole number (in dollar, euro, etc) followed by pennies, cents, etc (e.g. 2.15 US dollars [2,15$ in French]  or 49.46 French euros [49,46€ in French],) then this decimal number is read differently. The most important thing to remember about this change is that the comma [virgule] must no longer be used in the reading. (See next example).

NUMBERS

NUMBERS TO LETTERS

NUMBERS

NUMBERS TO LETTERS

30,92€

trente euros quatre-vingt-douze

199,25$

cent-quatre-vingt-dix-neuf-dollars-vingt-cinq

5. Fun French Idioms/expressions with Numbers

french-english-vocabulary-translation

FRENCH

|ENGLISH

|SENTENCE EXAMPLES TO PRACTICE

French idioms including the number 2

A. couper la poire en deux

Split the difference; meet half way

Les rivaux ont décidé de couper la poire en deux./ The political opponents have decided to meet halfway.

B. comme pas deux

Like no-one else; As can be; Like mad

Ce sprinter est rapide comme pas deux./ This sprinter is fast like no-one else.

C. en moins de deux

In no time

Julie a fait son travail en moins de deux./ Julie finished her work in no time.

D. joindre les deux bouts

Make ends meet

Chris n'arrive pas à joindre les deux bouts à la fin du mois./ Chris can't make ends meet at the end of the month.

French idioms including the number 2 and 3

E. jamais deux sans trois

Things always come in threes

Comme on dit toujours, jamais deux sans trois./ As people always say, things always come in threes.

French idioms including the number 3

F. être haut coomme trois pommes

Be very small; Be knee-high to a grasshopper

Tu es haut comme trois pommes et tu te prends déjà pour un grand./ You are knee-high to a grasshopper and you think you are already a big guy.

French idioms including the number 4

G. un de ces quatre

One of these days

Je te rendrai visite un de ces quatre./ I will pay you a visit one of these days.

H. à un de ces quatre!

See you someday!

Au revoir, Paul! à un de ces quatre!/ Goodbye Paul. See you someday!

I. se plier en quatre

Bend over backwards

Ma grand-mère se plie toujours en quatre pour me faire plaisir./ My grandma always bends over backward to make me happy.

J. ne pas y aller par quatre chemins

Get straight to the point; Not beat around the bush

Les ouvriers mécontents n'y sont pas allés par quatre chemins. ./ The digruntled workers didn't beat around the bush.

K. dire ses quatre vérités à quelqu'un

Telling someone a few home truths

Je vais lui dire ses quatre vérités. ./ I will tell him a few home truths.

French idioms including the number 5

L. cinq sur cinq

Loud and clear

J'ai reçu votre message cinq sur cinq./ I got your message loud and clear.


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