How to write numbers in French

This article explains how to write numbers in French in comparison with writing numbers in American English. Whether you’ll need to write down the date and time for an appointment or you’ll need to write a check, mastering numbers in French is useful for day-to-day life.

Write numbers with a decimal point

French use a comma instead of a point as a decimal separator.

La valeur approchée de Pi est 3,14.
The value of Pi is approximately 3.14.

Big numbers notation in French

French use non-breaking spaces instead of a comma to separate thousands in big numbers. Here are a few examples.

20 000
20,000

1 230 000
1,230,000

3 230,56
3,230.56

Big number names

The following table lists the correspondence between French and American big number names and notations. Notice how the word billion means two different numbers in French and American English.

FrenchAmerican
1 000
mille
1,000
one thousand
1 000 000
un million
1,000,000
one million
1 000 000 000
un milliard
1,000,000,000
one billion
1 000 000 000 000
un billion
1,000,000,000,000
one trillion
1 000 000 000 000 000
un billiard
1,000,000,000,000,000
one quadrillion

Writing dates in French

In France, unlike in the United States, dates are written in the order day-month-year.

Within a sentence, only the month is written with letters. Notice that there is no comma before the year element in French.

Elle est née le 2 mai 2010. [no comma]
She was born on May 2, 2010.

Ordinals are exclusively used for the first day of the month in a date.

C’est la fête du Muguet le 1er mai.
We celebrate lilies of the valley on May 1.

J’ai un rendez-vous chez le docteur le 2 avril.
I have a doctor’s appointment on April 2.

When filling out a form, use an hyphen as the separator to write the date instead of a forward slash.

24122023
12/24/2023

Historical dates are an exception to the rule as the month starts with a capital and words are separated with hyphens.

La rue du 14-Juillet-1945.
The 14th of July street.

Writing time in French

Time notation with a colon is usually only used on timetables in train stations or airports in France.

For everyday notation, you can use the abbreviations h (hour), min (minute) and s (second) preceded with a space. Don’t mix abbreviations with full words when writing time in French.

Mon train arrive lundi à 13 h 21 min.
Mon train arrive lundi à 13 heures 21 minutes.
My train arrives Monday at 01:21 PM.

Instead of using the am-pm notation, French use a 24-hour notation.

FrenchAmerican
0 h – minuit12 AM – midnight
1 h – une heure (du matin)1 AM
2 h – deux heures (du matin)2 AM
3 h – trois heures (du matin)3 AM
4 h – quatre heures (du matin)4 AM
5 h – cinq heures (du matin)5 AM
6 h – six heures (du matin)6 AM
7 h – sept heures (du matin)7 AM
8 h – huit heures (du matin)8 AM
9 h – neuf heures (du matin)9 AM
10 h – dix heures (du matin)10 AM
11 h – onze heures (du matin)11 AM
12 h – midi12 PM – noon
13 h – treize heures1 PM
14 h – quatorze heures2 PM
15 h – quinze heures3 PM
16 h – seize heures4 PM
17 h – dix-sept heures5 PM
18 h – dix-huit heures6 PM
19 h – dix-neuf heures7 PM
20 h – vingt heures8 PM
21 h – vingt et une heures9 PM
22 h – vingt-deux heures10 PM
23 h – vingt-trois heures11 PM

Watch out
Some French speakers use am in text messages as an abbreviation for après-midi, which means pm. As French say, “cherchez l’erreur” (go figure!)

How to write prices in French?

When writing prices in French, the currency symbol comes after the number and it is preceded by a nonbreaking space.

10 € or 10 EUR or 10 euros
€10

Une baguette coûte 1,10 €.
The price of a baguette is €1.10.

If you don’t have a French keyboard, read How to type French symbols on a qwerty keyboard to write the euro symbol.

How to write phone numbers in French?

Unlike in the United States, phones numbers are grouped by pairs of numbers in French.

Appelle moi au 07 33 44 55 55.
Give me a call at 818-444-5555.

If you plan on using your cell phone in France, read Can you use a U.S. cell phone in France.

Hand writing French numbers

It might come as a surprise but some numbers are not hand-written in the exact same way in French and in American English.

United States

France

Write numbers as words in French

Zero to ten numbers in French

  • zéro (0)
  • un (1)
  • deux (2)
  • trois (3)
  • quatre (4)
  • cinq (5)
  • six (6)
  • sept (7)
  • huit (8)
  • neuf (9)

Multiples of ten

  • dix (10)
  • vingt (20)
  • trente (30)
  • quarante (40)
  • cinquante (50)
  • soixante (60)
  • soixante-dix (70)
  • quatre-vingts (80)
  • quatre-vingt-dix (90)

Multiple-word numbers

Use hyphens to separate words inside numbers.

  • dix-sept (17)
  • dix-huit (18)
  • dix-neuf (19)
  • vingt-deux (22)
  • vingt-trois (23)
  • trente-deux (32)

In numbers under one hundred containing the word “et” (and), the hyphen is omitted. This is the list of numbers where the hyphen is replaced with “et”.

  • vingt et un (21)
  • trente et un (31)
  • quarante et un (41)
  • cinquante et un (51)
  • soixante et un (61)
  • soixante et onze (71)

French ordinal numbers

In French, most ordinal numbers are easily constructed by adding the ième suffix to the number. The three exceptions are the numbers one, five and nine.

FrenchAmerican
premier, première [no ième suffix]first
deuxièmesecond
troisièmethird
quatrièmefourth
cinquième [extra u]fifth
sixièmesixth
septièmeseventh
huitièmeeighth
neuvième [f replaced with v]ninth
dixièmetenth
Ordinal numbers in French

French use superscripts for ordinal number abbreviations. Superscript characters are smaller letters or numbers written slightly above the line of text.

FrenchAmerican
1er – masc. singular
1re – fem. singular
1ers – masc. plural
1res – fem. plural
1st
2e or 2d – masc. singular
2e or 2de – fem. singular
2es or 2ds – masc. plural
2es or 2des – fem. plural
2d
3e – singular
3es – plural
3rd
4e – singular
4es – plural
4th
5e – singular
5es – plural
5th
6e – singular
6es – plural
6th
7e – singular
7es – plural
7th
8e – singular
8es – plural
8th
9e – singular
9es – plural
9th
10e – singular
10es – plural
10th
Ordinal number abbreviations in French

Plural form for numbers in french

If you live in France, you’ll probably have to write checks at some point. When you do, make sure you write numbers correctly.

The word “mille” (thousand) doesn’t take an “s” at the plural form.

  • quatre-mille-vingt-trois (4,023)
  • deux-mille (2,000)

The words “cent” (hundred) and “vingt” (twenty) take an “s” at the plural form only when they are multiplied and they are the last word of the number.

  • quatre-cents (400) [last word, multiplied]
  • trois-mille-cent (3,100) [last word, not multiplied]
  • mille-vingt (1,020) [last word, not multiplied]
  • six-mille-quatre-cent-vingt (6,420) [last word, not multiplied]
  • deux-mille-quatre-vingts (2,080) [last word, multiplied]
  • trois-cent-deux (302) [not last word, multiplied]
  • cinq-mille-trois-cent-quatre-vingt-deux (5,382) [not last word, multiplied]

French approximate numbers

Compared to Americans, French have quite a few names for approximate numbers.

FrenchAmerican
une pairepair, couple
une huitaineapproximately 8
une dizaineapproximately 10
une douzainedozen
une demi-douzainehalf a dozen
une quinzaineapproximately 15
une vingtaineapproximately 20
une trentaineapproximately 30
une quarantaineapproximately 40
une cinquantaineapproximately 50
une soixantaineapproximately 60
une centaineapproximately 100
un millierapproximately 1,000

People in France use approximate numbers on a daily basis and this is especially true when buying fresh produce at a French farmer’s market.

Pouvez-vous me donner une demi-douzaine d’œufs s’il vous plait ?
Could you give me six eggs please?

The approximate word for eight “huitaine” is usually used in place of the expression “in a week”.

On se revoit dans une huitaine de jours.
Let’s meet in a week.

French expressions with numbers

Enjoy the following common French expressions to practice your French numbers in a fun way.

Se mettre sur son trente et un

meaning: to dress up

literal translation: to put oneself on his 31

Il s’est mis sur son trente et un pour sortir ce soir.

He dressed up to go out tonight

English expression: to clean up nice

Faire les quatre cents coups

meaning: to misbehave

literal translation: to score 400 strikes

Il a fait les quatre cents coups quand it était jeune.

He was up to no good in his youth.

English expression: to be up to no good

Faire d’une pierre deux coups

meaning: to achieve two things at once

literal translation: to use one stone to strike two

Je peux passer te voir demain comme je fais mes courses dans le quartier, comme ça je fais d’une pierre deux coups.

I can stop by tomorrow since I’m doing some shopping in the area, I’ll kill two birds with one stone.

English expression: to kill two birds with one stone

I hope you learned one thing or two about writing numbers in French. If you’re interested in learning measurement units used in France, read French measurements.

Nathalie Nahmani

About Nathalie Nahmani

Nathalie is the creator of ma French Life. She moved back to France after living in Los Angeles for 20 years. She writes practical articles to help expats in France. Nathalie lives with her family in the French Alps near Grenoble.

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