How to Count in French
When it comes to numbers and counting, the French follow most of the same patterns that the English do (at least from 0 to 20). After that there are a few differences, but don’t worry learning numbers and counting in French isn’t complicated. It’s really just a question of memorizing.
When the French count on their fingers, they always start with the thumb. You’re thinking big deal, right? Well, it can be if you use your fingers to order something. For example, if you hold up your index and middle finger to order 2 beers, the waiter will bring you three because they assume you started counting on the thumb (even if you kept your thumb tucked in).
With numbers 21 to 69, you combine the tens with the words for numbers 1 to 9.
|vingt et un||21|
|trente et un||31|
|quarante et un||41|
|cinquante et un||51|
|soixante et un||61|
So far so good, right? Well, here’s where things get interesting. In most French-speaking countries, there is no word for 70, 80, and 90. Instead, for the numbers 70 to 79, combine the tens with the tens.
Although these rules hold true for most French-speaking places, there are a few that do have unique words for the numbers 70 (septante) and 90 (nonante), such as Belgium and Switzerland.
|soixante et onze||71|
With the numbers 80 to 89, combine the number 4, the number 20, and the ones. For example, in French 80 is four 20s, 81 is four 20s plus 1, and so forth. (Unlike most French-speaking countries, Switzerland actually has a word for the number 80. It’s huitante.)
For numbers 90 to 99, combine the number 4, the number 20, and the tens. For example, 90 is four 20s plus 10, 91 is four 20s plus 11, and so forth. (The plus isn’t included in the expression.)
When talking about larger numbers in French, just follow the same formula. For numbers above 100, say the hundreds digit first, then the ones and then the tens. For example, 151 would be cent cinquante un (“a hundred, fifty, one”).
Note that an s is added to the end of the word cent, whenever it is followed by another number.