FrenchPod101.com Blog
Learn French with Free Daily
Audio and Video Lessons!
Start Your Free Trial 6 FREE Features

French Numbers: From 1 to Infinity…and Beyond!

Thumbnail

Numbers are everywhere, in countless aspects of our daily life: from counting time to money, people, or things. As it is, they’re a vital part of our communication skills, especially in our modern societies where digital worlds and capitalism are prominent.

Let’s not sugarcoat it: French numbers aren’t the easiest to learn and, once again, the proverb “There is an exception to every rule” applies perfectly. However, stick with me for a while and you’ll quickly learn how to count to with French numbers from 1 to 100. From there, I’ll show you how easy it gets to keep going higher and higher, as far as our minds can fathom…and more!

Table of Contents

  1. Counting from 0 to 9
  2. How to Count with Your Fingers in France
  3. Counting from 10 to 20
  4. How to Use Numbers: Your Age
  5. Counting up to 100
  6. How to Use Numbers: Phone Numbers
  7. Counting up to 1000 and Beyond
  8. How to Use Numbers: Prices
  9. Why is it Taboo to Talk Money in France?
  10. How Frenchpod101 Can Help You Learn More about Numbers

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Count to One Billion in French


1. Counting from 0 to 9

French Numbers

Undoubtedly the most important of all, these ten numbers are the foundation of everything we’ll learn in this article. Just swallow that frog and the rest will be a walk in the park! Here are examples of both the numerical version of the numbers and how the French write numbers.

  • 0 Zéro
  • 1 Un
  • 2 Deux
  • 3 Trois
  • 4 Quatre
  • 5 Cinq
  • 6 Six
  • 7 Sept
  • 8 Huit
  • 9 Neuf

Find out about and practice your accent using our list of numbers with audio recordings on FrenchPod101.com.


2. How to Count with Your Fingers in France

Counting on your fingers is something you usually take for granted…until you go to France. It’s nothing really complicated: just one of these tiny cultural differences that may leave you confused when you see it for the first time.

In North America and many other places, people count like this:

  1. Index finger up
  2. Index and middle fingers up
  3. Index, middle and ring fingers up

In France we have a different start:

  • Thumb up
  • Thumb, and Index finger up
  • Thumb, Index, and middle fingers up

What comes after is a matter of preference. Some French will do 4 from the thumb to ring finger while some people fold their thumb and use all 4 other fingers.

Be careful when you get to 6, as you’ll use the second hand with your thumb up!

This Is How I Count to 3 with French Fingers

This Is How I Count to 3 with French Fingers


3. Counting from 10 to 20

Remember when I said the rest would be a walk in the park? Well, maybe I got slightly carried away, as numbers from 10 to 20 are still a little irregular. But the rest will be a piece of cake, I promise!

  • 10 Dix
  • 11 Onze
  • 12 Douze
  • 13 Treize
  • 14 Quatorze
  • 15 Quinze
  • 16 Seize
  • 17 Dix-sept
  • 18 Dix-huit
  • 19 Dix-neuf
  • 20 Vingt

These numbers are only irregular until 16 (Seize), then, simply combine 10 (Dix) and the appropriate number, separated by a hyphen “-”.

For example, 10 combined with 8 becomes Dix-huit.


4. How to Use Numbers: Your Age

Here’s how to ask someone their age:

Casual “How old are you?” Formal “How old are you?”
Tu as quel âge ? Quel âge avez-vous ?

There’s nothing tricky about how to answer:

  • J’ai 20 ans. (“I’m 20 years old.”)

This literally means: “I have 20 years.”

  • J’ai is the contraction of Je and ai, which means: “I have.”
  • ans is the plural of the word An which means: “Year.”

/!\ Remember that the French can be a bit more demanding about politeness than some other countries and it can be seen as rude or insensitive to ask a woman about her age.

Find out more about this in our list of 10 lines to introduce yourself or in my previous article about how to introduce yourself in French!

Quel Age As-tu ?

Quel Age As-tu ?


5. Counting up to 100

We are back for more big numbers!

  • 30 Trente
  • 40 Quarante
  • 50 Cinquante
  • 60 Soixante
  • 70 Soixante-dix
  • 80 Quatre-vingt
  • 90 Quatre-vingt-dix
  • 100 Cent

There’s no magic trick here. You’ll have to memorize them, but if you take a closer look, some of them sound like their base number:

  • Trois ► Trente
  • Quatre ► Quarante
  • Cinq ► Cinquante
  • Six ► Soixante

Then enter the crazy ones:

  • Soixante-dix literally means “Sixty-ten” (60 + 10 = 70)
  • Quatre-vingt means “Four-twenty” (4 * 20 = 80)

Ready for 90?

  • Quatre-vingt-dix means “Four-twenty-ten” (4 * 20 + 10)

Well, this is mathematically correct, I can’t argue with that. But what a mess! Blame it on the ancestral celtic counting system.

In Switzerland and Belgium, French speakers made smarter choices and came up with original numbers. I’m only mentioning it for the sake of exhaustivity but they are NOT used in France and many French are unaware of their very existence.

  • Swiss numbers: 70 = septante, 80 = huitante, 90 = nonante
  • Belgian numbers: 70 = septante, 90 = nonante

So… Twenty Multiplied by Four... Plus Ten… Divided by the Square Root of Pi..?

So… Twenty Multiplied by Four… Plus Ten… Divided by the Square Root of Pi..?

Now, let’s fill in the gaps and see how to make numbers such as 23 or 75.

Up to 69, French numbers are regular. Then, it gets a bit out of control, but nothing you can’t handle!

Numbers from 21 to 69

  • 21 Vingt et un
  • 22 Vingt-deux
  • 23 Vingt-trois
  • 24 Vingt-quatre
  • 25 Vingt-cinq
  • 26 Vingt-six
  • 27 Vingt-sept
  • 28 Vingt-huit
  • 29 Vingt-neuf

Vingt et un (21) literally means “Twenty and one.”

All others are just a combination of Vingt (“Twenty”) and the respective number, separated with a hyphen, as in Vingt-cinq (25).

All numbers up to 69 follow the same rule. For example:

  • 31 Trente et un
  • 54 Cinquante-quatre
  • 67 Soixante-sept

Numbers from 71 to 99

Because 70 and 90 are respectively “60 and 10” and “80 and 10,” the next numbers follow the same rule:

  • 71 isn’t written as “60 and 10 and 1” but as “60 and 11”: Soixante et onze.
  • 94 isn’t written as “80 and 10-4” but as “80-14”: Quatre-vingt-quatorze.

But once again, it wouldn’t be French without exceptions! Luckily, this time, there are only two:

  • 81 should be “80 and 1” like all other numbers ending with 1, but it’s not. Instead, it’s written like any other figure: Quatre-vingt-un
  • 91 follows the same route and instead of being “80 and 11,” it’s just “80-11”: Quatre-vingt-onze.

Here’s a tab with all of these numbers up to 99:

●71 Soixante et onze ●81 Quatre-vingt-un ●91 Quatre-vingt-onze
●72 Soixante-douze ●82 Quatre-vingt-deux ●92 Quatre-vingt-douze
●73 Soixante-treize ●83 Quatre-vingt-trois ●93 Quatre-vingt-treize
●74 Soixante-quatorze ●84 Quatre-vingt-quatre ●94 Quatre-vingt-quatorze
●75 Soixante-quinze ●85 Quatre-vingt-cinq ●95 Quatre-vingt-quinze
●76 Soixante-seize ●86 Quatre-vingt-six ●96 Quatre-vingt-seize
●77 Soixante-dix-huit ●87 Quatre-vingt-sept ●97 Quatre-vingt-dix-sept
●78 Soixante-dix-huit ●88 Quatre-vingt-huit ●98 Quatre-vingt-dix-huit
●79 Soixante-dix-neuf ●89 Quatre-vingt-neuf ●99 Quatre-vingt-dix-neuf

And cent! (100)


6. How to Use Numbers: Phone Numbers

The 10-digit French phone numbers are usually given in five groups of numbers. For instance: 03 27 42 24 06 57.

In any group starting with zéro (0), the zéro is pronounced. For example, the number above will be: Zéro-trois, vingt-sept, quarante-deux, vingt-quatre, zéro-six, cinquante-sept.

Note: Some numbers in 800 can sometimes be told otherwise, but there’s no reason to worry about that. Everybody will be just fine if you read it like any other number.

But what are phone numbers good for, if not to ask a cute girl or a handsome guy for their Whatsapp number? Here are a few lines you could use in an informal / casual situation:

  • Je peux avoir ton numéro ? (“Can I have your number?”)
  • Tu peux me donner ton numéro ? (“Can you give me your number?”)
  • Tu me passes ton numéro ? (“Will you give me your number?”)

Je Peux Avoir Ton Numéro ?

Je Peux Avoir Ton Numéro ?


7. Counting up to 1000 and Beyond

Once you know how to count up to 100, you know how to count up to 999. Here’s how:

  • 200 Deux-cent
  • 300 Trois-cent
  • ( … )
  • 900 Neuf-cent

Then, you can easily assemble big numbers by just combining what you already know:

    207 Deux-cent-sept

    556 Cinq-cent-cinquante-six

    983 Neuf-cent-quatre-vingt-trois

Now, I promised you “infinity and beyond,” so let’s reach the stars with some enormous numbers!

1,000 Mille

10,000 Dix-mille

100,000 Cent-mille

1,000,000 (106) Un million

1,000,000,000 (109) Un milliard

1,000,000,000,000 (1012) Un billion

( … )

10 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 (10100) Un gogol

And how do they combine? Just like every other number!

  • 2019 Deux-mille-dix-neuf
  • 1,286,347 Un million- deux-cent-quatre-vingt-six-mille-trois-cent-quarante-sept

If you want a nice visual recap of all of these numbers, consider subscribing to our Premium content and check out this video about French numbers in 3 minutes!

“To Infinity and Beyond!” (Buzz Lightyear)

“To Infinity and Beyond!” (Buzz Lightyear)


8. How to Use Numbers: Prices

With all these big numbers, you’re ready for any kind of shopping in France, even if you want to buy a brand new Airbus. So, let’s see how to deal with prices, with examples.

Let’s say you’re in a shop, wondering about the price of a Playstation:

  • Combien ça coûte ? (“How much is it?”)
  • Combien coûte cette Playstation ? (“How much is this Playstation?”)
  • Combien vaut cette Playstation ? (“How much is this Playstation worth?”)
  • Quel est le prix de cette Playstation ? (“What is the price of this Playstation?”)

Most common answers would be:

  • La Playstation est à 300€. (“The Playstation is 300€.”)
  • Elle coûte 300€ (“It costs 300€.”)
    In this last example, the sentence starts with “Elle” because “Playstation” is feminine in French but you can also use the neutral form and say: Ca coûte 300€.

For more vocabulary about shopping, check out our list of words and expressions for online shopping with audio recordings on FrenchPod101.com.


9. Why is it Taboo to Talk Money in France?

Talking about your salary is common in North America and no big deal in many other countries, but in France there remains some kind of taboo or at least a veil of secrecy around it. Many French get slightly uncomfortable if you bring the topic to the table. But why is that?

The origins of this malaise aren’t entirely clear. Some sociologists claim it comes from our humble farming origins where most French were working the land and money wasn’t really a thing. Others say it’s of religious nature, tracing it back to when Catholicism was prominent in the country and mainly turned to poor people. Some suggest that under the influence of Marxism, wealth and profit are seen as immoral or unethical.

1. What do People Say About it?

If you ask French workers why they don’t want to talk about their salary, there can be a wide variety of answers but the main reason seems to be that people consider they’re not paid enough for what they offer to their employer.

We tend to believe that our salary somehow reflects what we’re worth and that revealing your low salary is like admitting your limitations as a person. If my salary is supposed to match my skills, what does it say about me if I’m not earning much? At best, it means I’m not paid enough and that’s a sign of weakness. At worst, it means I get a fair payment for my mediocre performance.

But what if you’re paid well? In this case, talking money becomes a taboo for different reasons. Some wealthy French will avoid the topic out of fear of arousing jealousy or envy. Some think it would make their poorer friends uncomfortable or dissatisfied with themselves, while others simply claim it’s a personal subject and doesn’t have to be made public.

However, most of the time, it can be a topic of conversation between trusted friends or family, and you shouldn’t always see it as an unbreakable taboo.

Differences in Salary

Differences in Salary


10. How Frenchpod101 Can Help You Learn More about Numbers

In this guide, you’ve learned how to play with numbers in French, from the basic figures up to the most ridiculously oversized ones!

Do you feel ready to ask someone for their phone number, or inquire about prices while shopping on the Champs Elysées?

If you want more French numbers practice, why not try writing the age and years of birth of some of your friends, or try to translate and pronounce big numbers from French shops?

Remember that you can also use our premium service, MyTeacher, to get personal one-on-one coaching and have your private teacher answer your questions about numbers, or any other topic! Be sure to visit FrenchPod101.com for many other effective learning tools so that you can master French in no time!

About the Author: Born and bred in the rainy north of France, Cyril Danon has been bouncing off various jobs before he left everything behind to wander around the wonders of the World. Now, after quenching his wanderlust for the last few years, he’s eager to share his passion for languages.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Count to One Billion in French