Why are big numbers so weird in French?
Numbers in French can seem weird for foreigners, especially for English-speaking ones.
Big numbers are kind of special too. What we mean by big numbers or large French numbers are numbers over three digits.
Writing big numbers or understanding written big numbers in French requires to know some basic rules.
First, French people don’t use a comma to point out thousands or millions:
♦ The comma is used in writing a number with a decimal part, to separate the whole number part from the fractional part. There is no such thing as a decimal point in French.
♦ The dot is sometimes used to separate numbers into 3-digit increments. However, it’s rare and this is not really recommended by the typographic code. It is far better to leave spaces to point out thousands, millions and so on.
How to write big numbers in French
Hundreds in French
First, one hundred is written cent. Please notice that French people don’t use any determiner or any numeral adjective before “cent“.
Thus, you get :
100 : cent
200 : deux cents
300 : trois cents
400 : quatre cents
500 : cinq cents
600 : six cents
700 : sept cents
800 : huit cents
900 : neuf cents
As you can see, the multiples of cent take a final s.
However, cent doesn’t have any final s when it’s followed by another numeral adjective. For example, 320 is written “trois cent vingt”.
This rule doesn’t apply when “cent” is used before “millions” and you have to write : “deux cents millions”.
To tell the numbers after the hudreds, you just have to add the tens or so:
101 = cent-un
102 = cent-deux
110 = cent-dix
123 = cent-vingt-trois
Thousands in French
The word for one thousand in French is mille. The logic is the same as one hundred and cent : French people don’t use any designator for one.
1 000 = mille
2 000 = deux mille
3 000 = trois mille
4 000 = quatre mille
5 000 = cinq mille
6 000 = six mille
7 000 = sept mille
8 000 = huit mille
9 000 = neuf mille
10 000 = dix mille
11 000 = onze mille
and so on…
For hundreds of thousands, you say:
100 000 = cent mille
101 000 = cent un mille
110 000 = cent dix mille
Things to know:
♦ Mille never takes any final s. It’s invariable.
♦ You can add hyphens between each numbers since the 1990 spelling reform.
What about millions and milliards in French?
♦ Million and milliard take an s when they are used in the plural form.
♦ Their logic of use is the same as for thousands, except for one million and one milliard that get a determiner or a numeral adjective.
1 000 000 = un million
2 000 000 = deux millions
10 000 000 = dix millions
11 000 000 = onze millions
100 000 000 = cent millions
and so on…
How to pronounce big numbers in French
In this part, you will find some examples of big numbers and their pronunciation.
Click on each number to learn how to pronounce them like a French native speaker.
Then practice! You can repeat the different numbers as much as needed.
Let’s start with the pronunciation of hundreds in French
Pay close attention to the pronuciation of 500, 600 and 800: the final consonants of cinq, six and huit become silent when they are followed by cent, mille, million and milliard.
100 - cent
200 - deux cents
300 - trois cents
400 - quatre cents
500 - cinq cents
600 - six cents
700 - sept cents
800 - huit cents
900 - neuf cents
Now listen to some examples of thousands in French
Keep in mind that the final consonants of cinq, six and huit become silent when they are followed by cent, mille, million and milliard.
1 000 - mille
2 000 - deux mille
3 000 - trois mille
10 000 - dix mille
Here are some examples of millions and billions in French
1 000 000 - un million
2 000 000 - deux millions
3 000 000 - trois millions
1 000 000 000 - un milliard
2 000 000 000 - deux milliards
3 000 000 000 - trois milliards
Finally, listen to some examples of big numbers in French