How to count in French from 70 is often tricky for French learners. Craig wrote to me :

“To me it seemed more like calculation when trying to learn these numbers as their literal translation is more like a maths equation.

For example, 72 translates as sixty-twelve, 86 as four-twenty-six, 98 as four-twenty-ten-eight.

If you have grown up learning French, it probably doesn’t seem strange, but the numbers 70 to 100 have never felt natural to me in French.”

Dear reader and student of French, rejoice! I believe **I can help you count from 70 to 100 in French easily!** 😉

- First, I will give you a mini history lesson (as I always believe that understanding the “why” helps making things more memorable)
- Then, I will teach you my own personal rule to get these numbers right at last!

## Part 1: A Bit of History

### Why French numbers go weird between 70 and 100.

Nowadays, we count using the **decimal system (base 10)**.

That means that we count up to 9 and the tenth number is starting a new “set”:

- The “thirty set” (“trente”):

30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39

- The “fourty set” (“quarante”):

40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49,

- The “fifty set” (“cinquante”):

50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59

Etc.

Until the 17^{th} century, French numerals were following a “logical”, decimal pattern:

20 = vingt

30 = trente

40 = quarante

50 = cinquante

60 = soixante

70 = septante

80 = octante

90 = nonante

Note : “**septante” and “nonante” are still used mainly in Belgium and in Switzerland** (as well as in Congo, Rwanda and some places in the East and South of France). **Switzerland also uses “huitante”** (occasionally “octante”) for “quatre-vingts” (80).

In the 17^{th} century l’Académie Française (the French institution that fixes the norms and the rules of the French language) started to reject “septante”, “octante” and “nonante”. The Académie Française is known for being quite conservative so this change can be surprising and remains unexplained although it is probably to inject/reintroduce a bit of historical heritage in our fascinating French language.

Let’s rewind further into time:

In the Middle Ages, France (which was then called French Gaule – “la Gaule”) was not using the decimal system but the **vigesimal system / the score system** – probably introduced by the Celts or the Normans.

**A score is a group of twenty**.

In the decimal system / base 10 = we count up to 9 and the tenth number is starting a new set.

In the score system / base 20 = we count up to 19 and the 20^{th} number is starting a new set / a score.

So, in the Middle Ages we would say:

- 30 = one score plus ten (1×20 + 10) = “vingt-dix”

Note: The spelling of « vingt » was actually different but it’s not what matters here.

- 40 = two scores (2×20) = « deux-vingts »
- 50 = two scores plus ten (2×20 + 10) = « deux-vingt-dix »
- 60 = three scores (3×20) = « trois-vingts »
- 70 = three scores plus ten (3×20 + 10) = « trois-vingt-dix »
- 80 = four scores (4×20) = « quatre-vingts »
- 90 = four scores plus ten (4×20 + 10) = « quatre-vingt-dix »

(Simply count how many scores/how many times twenty you have and then add the rest. That can seem like quite a bit of maths, but it’s actually not complicated : it’s only a different system of reference!)

### French numbers today

As a “souvenir”/heritage of that long-gone time, French language has reintroduced “quatre-vingts” for 80 and “quatre-vingt-dix” for 90. As for 70, “soixante-dix”, I like to think of it as a “transitional number”, “a hybrid” that is a mix of the decimal and the score systems!

80 = 4×20 = « quatre-vingts »

90 = 4×20 + 10 = « quatre-vingt-dix »

## How to easily count in French from 70 ?

Now that you know the “why”, let’s see the “how” to count from 70 because it will prevent you from making the following mistakes :

“soixante-dix-trois” for 73 (student did : 70 + 3 =) ;

or

“quatre-vingt-dix-deux” for 92 (student did : 90 + 2).

Don’t forget that **between 60 and 100, we will be counting in scores (i.e by sets of twenty)**.

The simplest rule /tip I have for you is to **remember the following two sentences**, and you will never get it wrong again:

**“For the 60’s and the 70’s, 60 is the limit.”**

**“For the 80’s and the 90’s, 80 is the limit.”**

What does that mean ? It means that you need to take 60 (or 80) and add the rest to this number.

Let’s take the above examples again:

### Example #1: How to say “73” in French ?

Remember : For the 60’s and the 70’s, **60 is the limit**.

73 = **60** (the limit) + 13

73 = **soixante**-treize

### Example #2 : How to say 92 in French ?

Remember : For the 80’s and the 90’s, **80 is the limit**.

92 = **80** (the limit) + 12

92 = **quatre-vingt**-douze (4×20 + 12)

### Note: for 71, use ”et”

71 = 60 (the limit) + 11

71 = soixante **et** onze

## Got it ? Your turn!

How do you say the following in French : 75, 87, 98 ? (answers at the end of this article)

## …and 100

Notice that we have only been counting up to…99 ! (quatre-vingt-dix-neuf)

I promised to help you count up to a hundred, so here is the last number:

**100 = cent**

I said “cent”, just “cent”, not “un cent”!

It goes: un cent (100), deux cents (200), trois cents (300), etc

Origin : think of a cent (a hundredth of a dollar), a century (100 years)

## Bonus 😉

### How to say 1.000 (“one thousand”) in French ?

Note:** in French, we use a dot** to break the thousands, the millions, etc. Not a comma! (See the example above.). We use a comma for the decimal place…which is the exact opposite of how English works!

Clue : think of what a period of 1,000 years is called.

**1.000 = mille** (as in a millennium)

The same rule as “cent” applies, i.e:

Un mille (1.000), deux mille (2.000), trois mille (3.000) etc.

## Answers

75 = 60 (the limit) + 15

75 = soixante-quinze

87 = 80 (the limit) + 7

87 = quatre-vingt-sept (4×20 + 7)

98 = 80 (the limit) + 18

98 = quatre-vingt-dix-huit (4×20 + 18)

Did you get these answers ?

I hope these tips have been useful to you!

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