Number words in French: Fractions, Age ranges, Decades, Collective nouns, Big numbers, etc

Celine Segueg

In this post we’re covering a handful of related topics that all revolve around numbers. Let’s think of today’s post as a lesson on all the number words in French. This post is clearly a follow-up to our beginner lessons on counting to 100, and on ordinal numbers. We also build on several other fundamental grammar concepts like noun gender and pluralization in French.

But what exactly do we mean by number words in French?

We’ll start of by explaining how to form fractions, including some unique vocab like a third and a half in French. We’ll continue the lesson on proportions by introducing percentages in French.

Then we’ll move on to small multiples in French. We’ll start off with multipliers, like doubling and tripling. Then we’ll get into collective nouns, including words like duo and trio.

Soon enough we’ll reach the bigger numbers, where we’re looking at multiples of ten in all their forms. We’ll see all the French collective numbers, of which a dozen is the only real version you have in English. We’ll see how to use these with ages, along with other specific terms for age ranges along the lines of 40-something or in her fifties. While we’re at it, we’ll look at how to refer to specific decades in French, like the ’90s.

We’ll end our post with a lesson on big numbers in French, starting at a hundred and going up to the trillions. There are some very particular grammar rules for French numbers as we keep adding digits, so we’ll make a point of going through each one.

As we do in all our posts, we’ll include plenty of fun example sentences to demonstrate each concept along the way. We also provide links to our other detailed French lessons whenever they’re related.

Now without further ado, let’s get into our various topics surrounding number words in French!

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Fractions in French

For most fractions in French, the formula is the same as in English: we just use an ordinal number for the denominator, and a cardinal number for the numerator. Likewise, in French fractions where the numerator is more than one, the denominator is stated in plural. This is best demonstrated through some examples.

Fraction Written fraction in English Written fraction in French
1/8 one eighth un huitième
5/8 five eighths cinq huitièmes
1/10 one tenth un dixième
1/19 one nineteenth un dix-neuvième
7/30 seven thirtieths sept trentièmes
12/365 twelve three-hundred-and-sixty-fifths douze trois-cent-soixante-cinquièmes


Also like in English, we have a few common French fractions that differ from this standard formula. These ones just need to be learned.

1/2 a half un demi, une demie
1/3 a third un tiers
1/4 a quarter un quart

Half in French

There are a few special rules for a half in French that are unique to this fraction. One is that it has its own noun form, une moitié, and the other is that the fraction has a feminine form, une demie. Let’s see how these work.

Un demi is the only French fraction that has a different feminine form: une demie. However, even this feminine form is only used in certain sentence structures. Usually, we just use the neutral form connected to the noun with a hyphen, regardless of the noun’s gender.

  • Il nous reste une demi-heure. – We have a half-hour left.
  • Il y a trois demi-bouteilles de vin sur la table. – There are three half bottles of wine on the table.

We only use the feminine form of une demie in French if it’s mentioned after the feminine noun in the sentence.

  • Il nous reste une heure et demie. – We have an hour and a half left.
  • A huit, nous avons fini cinq bouteilles et demie de vin. – Between the eight of us, we finished five and a half bottles of wine.

The noun for a half in French is une moitié. Just like in English when you talk about half of something, we use la moitié de.

  • Nous passons la moitié de notre temps à attendre. – We spend half [of] our time waiting.
  • Il reste toujours la moitié d’une bouteille de rouge, trois-quarts d’un Camembert, et une demi-baguette. Santé! – There’s still half [of] a bottle of red, three quarters of a Camembert, and a half baguette. Cheers!

Just a word of warning if you want to order half a liter of beer at the bar, you’ll need to ask for une pinte. If you order un demi, they’ll bring you only half of that! For more pointers on drinks, check out our full post on French bar culture.

Using French fractions in a sentence

Just as we saw in the last set of examples with une moitié, we use the same sentence structure with other fractions in French.

The fraction is generally preceded by an article, whether definite (le, la, les) or indefinite (un, une, des) or some other determiner (such as ce, mon, etc). When we talk about this fraction of a noun, we introduce the noun with the partitive article de.

  • Comme je travaille tard les cinq septièmes de la semaine, je vois à peine mes enfants. – Since I work late five sevenths of the week, I hardly see my kids.
  • Un huitième de la population parisienne consacre au moins les deux cinquièmes du salaire au loyer. – One eighth of the population of Paris spends at least two fifths of their salary on rent.

Percentages in French

Like fractions, percentages are used to express a proportion of a whole. Just like in English, we just use the cardinal numbers to state a percentage. To express a percentage of something, we use the partitive article de.

Percentages in French are normally written in numerals rather than words. Since it’s a double punctuation mark, we put a space between the number and the percentage sign (%).

  • 12 % de la population parisienne consacre au moins 40 % du salaire au loyer. – 12% of the population of Paris spends at least 40% of their salary on rent.
  • Je mets 5 % de mon salaire dans mon compte d’épargne chaque mois, mais mon ambition serait plutôt de 10 %. – I put 5% of my salary into my savings account each month, but my ambition would be more like 10%.

Multipliers in French: double, triple, quadruple

We essentially use the same words for basic multipliers in both English and French. We rarely go over quintupling, but for multiplying something tenfold we do have a unique word: décuple. In French, these can be used as nouns, verbs, or adjectives.

English multiplier French multiplier French verb
double double doubler
triple triple tripler
quadruple quadruple quadrupler
quintuple quintuple quintrupler
tenfold décuple décupler
  • De 15h à 18h, bénéficiez du double pour le même prix. – From 3pm to 6pm, get double for the same price.
  • J’ai déménagé de Montpellier à Paris et mon loyer a triplé. – I moved from Montpellier to Paris, and my rent tripled.
  • Astérix est tombé dans la potion magique et a décuplé ses forces. – Astérix fell into the magic potion and multplied his strength tenfold.

Collective nouns

When we talk about small groups as a single noun, we use almost the same words in French as you do in English. For these words describing groups of two and three, we won’t even include the English translations:

  • un duo
  • un couple (primarily used for describing two people)
  • une paire (primarily used for describing two objects)
  • un trio

The next two collective words are almost exclusively used for describing musical ensembles, just like their English equivalents.

  • un quatuor – a quartet
  • un quintette – a quintet

Finally, we’ll mention one collective noun that’s often heard in France, since it describes the standard length of tenure of the President of the Republic after each election.

  • un quinquennat – a five-year term

Collective numbers

You have just one of these numbers in English, which was certainly derived from French: une douzaine. We have a several other collective numbers in French, all of which are listed here based on the cardinal numbers they’re formed from.

French cardinal number French collective number
huit un huitaine
dix une dizaine
douze une douzaine
quinze une quinzaine
vingt une vingtaine
trente une trentaine
quarante une quarantaine
cinquante une cinquantaine
soixante une soixantaine
cent une centaine
mille un millier


These are the only collective numbers in French. Even if they seem to follow a clear format, we cannot simply form other collective numbers by applying the same format. There is no such thing as “une cinqaine” or “une treizaine,” for example.

Note the spelling exception in the format for dix, which becomes dizaine. The other exception is with un millier, not “une millaine.”

Except for une douzaine, these collective numbers in French indicate approximation rather than exact numbers. Une vigntaine, for example, could be translated into English as around twenty or twenty-ish. Only with une douzaine are we always speaking about exactly twelve.

The French collective numbers up to une soixantaine can only be used in singular. We cannot have “deux vigntaines,” for example. Une douzaine is an exception: since it refers to exactly 12 of something, we can refer to specific numbers of dozens. We can state des centaines and des milliers in plural, but even here the numbers remain vague: we cannot refer to a specific number of hundreds or thousands, only to some, a few, or many. In informal spoken French, the same practice is also applied to tens as quelques dizaines.

Une quinzaine de jours is a common expression meaning about two weeks. The same concept once applied with un huitaine, but this collective noun has essentially disappeared from the language at this point.

For all of these collective numbers in French, we can follow them with de + a noun to describe the general quantity of the specific noun. We can also use them alone as pronouns when the noun is already known.

  • Combien de bougies seront sur ton gateau d’anniversaire cette année ? / Une trentaine. Mais qui va compter ? – How many candles will be on your birthday cake this year? / Around thirty. But who’s counting?
  • Vous vivez à combien de kilomètres de la plage ? / Une quarantaine. – You live how many kilometers from the beach? / Forty-ish.
  • Mes grands-parents sont arrivés d’Italie il y a une cinquantaine d’années. – My grandparents arrived from Italy around fifty years ago.
  • Pour préparer quatre flans, il nous faut deux douzaines d’œufs. – To prepare four flans, we need two dozen eggs.
  • Il y a des dizaines d’oies dans le champ. – There are some tens of geese in the field.
  • J’ai dépénsé quelques centaines d’euros au festival. – I spent a few hundred euros at the festival.
  • Plusieurs milliers de personnes sont venus à la manifestation. – Several thousand people came to the protest march.

Age ranges in French

When we approximate people’s ages in French, we have similar ways of doing so as in English. If someone’s age appears near one of the numbers represented by the collective numbers we saw in the last section, we can use them to say that they’re about that age.

  • Mon prof de maths a une cinquantaine d’années. – My math teacher is about fifty years old.
  • À part moi et ma copine, j’ai eu l’impression que tout le monde au festival avait une vigntaine d’années. – Aside from me and my girlfriend, I got the impression that everyone at the festival was about twenty years old.

Note that since we’re approximating here, we use année rather than an for year in French. If we know someone’s exact age, we use the unit of time an rather than the lapse of time année. We explain this dichotomy in greater detail in our post on an vs année.

  • Mon prof de français a cinquante-et-un ans. – My French teacher is fifty-one years old.

But what about age ranges in decades? You use a few of these in English, especially octegenarian, but in French we have equivalents for most of the decades. The following table shows all of the French decade age ranges that exist, all ending in -enaire or -énaire. All of these words can be used either on their own as masculine nouns, or to describe some other noun as invariable adjectives.

Note that “vigntenaire” does not exist, and that trentenaire is somewhat rare. For the the decades, they’re all fairly vague in terms of the exact number of years. Un quadregénaire, for example, describes someone who is about 40 years old, but may also just describe someone who is in their 40s, anywhere between the age of 40 and 49. It’s a good way of saying forty-something in French.

Once we reach centenaire and bicentenaire, however, we’re implying an age that’s much close to 100 or 200 than with the decade words. Un centenaire refers to someone or something that has reached 100 years, while un bicentenaire refers to the 200th anniversary.

30s trentenaire
40s quadregénaire
50s quinquagénaire
60s sexagénaire
70s septuagénaire
80s octogénaire
90s nonagénaire
100s centenaire
200s bicentenaire
  • En tant que quadregénaires au spectacle de Sting, j’ai eu l’impression que nous étions parmi les plus jeunes aux arènes. – As forty-somethings at the Sting concert, I had the impression that we were among the youngest people in the arena.
  • Le gîte est tenu par un couple de sexagénaires retraités qui ont quitté Paris pour la campagne. – The bed and breakfast is run by a couple of sixty-something retirees who left Paris for the countryside.
  • Tous mes grand-parents sont des octegénaires, alors je devrais passer plus de temps en Normandie afin de les voir plus souvent. – All of my grandparents are octogenarians, so I should spend more time in Normandy to see them more often.
  • L’entrée du château est bordée de chênes centenaires. – The entry to the castle is lined with century-old oak trees.
  • L’université à marqué son bicentenaire avec l’inauguration d’une statue du fondateur. – The university marked its bicentennial with the inauguration of a statue of its founder.

Decades in French

How do we refer to specific decades in French, like the 1600s or the ’80s? We don’t use the abbreviation with the apostrophe like you do in English, nor do we pluralize the number. We just say les années, followed by the decade or century in digits.

  • On fait une soirée années 80 ce soir. Tu viens danser avec nous ? – We’re doing an ’80s night tonight. Are you coming dancing with us?
  • Dans les années 1350, plus d’un tiers de la population européenne périt de la peste noire. – In the 1350s, more than a third of Europe’s population perished from the Black Plague.
  • Le divorce était-il commun dans les années 1900 ? – Was divorce common in the 1900s?

In English, you tend to refer to years with a shorthand of hundreds rather than expressing the full four-digit number in the thousands. This is uncommon in French. Let’s take 1960 as an example, which you surely pronounce as nineteen sixty rather than “one thousand nine hundred sixty.” In French, we normally say the full number as mille neuf cent soixante rather than “dix-neuf cents soixante,” though the latter option isn’t unheard of. Even when we do use the shorthand though, we can’t omit the “cents” and just say “dix-neuf soixante.” We don’t use this shorthand at all in the current millennium, so all of our years these days begin with deux mille.

For more lessons on describing timeframes in French, see our posts on days of the week, months and seasons, and telling time in French.

Big numbers in French

In one of our beginner posts, we introduced all of the French numbers from 1 to 100 in full detail. Since we’re on an intermediate post today, let’s see the rest of the big numbers in French!

Note that our big numbers in French just go up to a billion: to say a trillion we just say a thousand billions. We don’t have specific exaggerated numbers like a bazillion or a gazillion in French: we just say des millions or des milliards.

100 cent
200 deux cents
201 deux cent un
1.000 mille
10.000 dix mille
100.000 cent mille
1.000.000 un million
10.000.000 dix millions
100.000.000 cent millions un milliard dix milliards cent milliards mille milliards

How to use big numbers in French

Did you notice that the thousands aren’t written in plural, but the other big numbers are? We have a few particular rules for using the big numbers in French that we need to explain here.

We never say “un cent” or “un mille” for one hundred or one thousand. These exact numbers are always just said with the single words cent and mille.

When we have exact multiples of hundreds, we need to pluralize cent to cents. So while it’s just cent for one hundred, it’s deux cents or trois cents for two hundred or three hundred. But when we exceed the exact multiple of hundreds and we get into the next 99 numbers, the cent is back to singular.

  • Une nuitée coûte cent euros, deux nuitées coûtent deux cents euros, une semaine coûte cinq cent cinquante euros, et deux semaines coûtent mille euros. – One night costs one hundred euros, two nights cost two hundred euros, one week costs five hundred fifty euros, and two weeks cost one thousand euros.

In the thousands, on the other hand, we never pluralize the mille. If we talk about multiple thousands, we use the collective number we saw in that section above and say plusieurs milliers. But within cardinal numbers, mille is always written in singular.

  • En suivant les parcours Eurovélo d’Amsterdam jusqu’à Barcelone, il faut pédaler environ deux mille sept cents kilomètres. – Following the Eurovélo cycling routes from Amsterdam to Barcelona, you need to ride around two thousand seven hundred kilometers.

Thousands cannot be expressed as multiples of hundreds like you do in English. An equivalent of a number like “twenty-five hundred” in French does not exist, for example. The exception is with years, as we mentioned above in the section on decades, and even then it’s fairly uncommon.

Unlike a hundred and a thousand in French, a million and a billion in French always require their initial number: un million and un milliard. Once we’re counting in the millions and billions, we need to pluralize the millions and milliards as soon as they exceed un. In contrast to the rule with cents and cent that we just saw, millions and milliards keep their pluralization regardless of the rest of the number that follows.

  • La ville de Paris dépassa le seuil d’un million d’habitants dans les années 1840, et de deux millions moins de 40 ans plus tard. Sa population atteigna son apogée en 1920, avec environ deux millions neuf cents mille habitants. – The city of Paris crossed the threshold of one million inhabitants in the 1840s, and of two million less than 40 years later. Its population peaked in 1920, with about two million nine hundred thousand inhabitants.

We don’t need to connect the different elements of a big number with dashes like we do with smaller French numbers, except where those smaller numbers form part of the big numbers.

When we have a given number of something up to a million, we just state the number in French followed by the noun in plural. As of a million, however, we need to add de between the number and the plural noun.

  • J’ai l’ai dit que j’étais millionaire, alors elle croit que j’ai un million d’euros. Pourtant, je n’ai que neuf cent quatre-vingt-dix-neuf mille neuf cent quatre-vingt-dix-neuf euros en banque. – I told her that I was a millionaire, so she thinks I have a million euros. In fact, I have only nine hundred ninety nine thousand nine hundred ninety nine euros in the bank.

Conclusion: Number words in French

Today we looked at a handful of niche topics related to French number vocabulary. From forming French fractions to talking about age ranges, we can sum up the overall topic of the post as a lesson on French number words.

Sure, each topic we covered here may seem pretty obscure on its own. That being said, moving up through intermediate French means learning all the vocab and grasping all the usage intricacies of the French number words we’ve introduced here.

Numbers come in many shapes and forms in different languages. By mastering the various categories of French number words we saw today, your’ve really enhanced your capacity to add nuance into any French discussion that touches on these aspects of numbers!