French Numbers: Counting in French & Numerical French Expressions

Bonjour, c’est Géraldine. Bienvenue sur Comme une Française !

How can you sound more fluent in French?
Well, one way to become more fluent (and more confident) in French is to use common French expressions!

There are a lot of French expressions though. So, just learning a whole list of them can feel overwhelming.

Don’t worry!
We’re going to make it more fun (and easier to remember) by learning some of these colloquial expressions by theme.

Learning goals:
This is what you’ll be able to do after watching this lesson

  • Beginner: Learn the numbers from 1 to 10 in French
  • Intermediate: Learn 10 new expressions in spoken everyday French
  • Advanced: perfect your spoken French

C’est parti !


To go the extra mile, you can also take check out previous lessons on French counting and expressions, such as French Counting: An Essential Guide to French Numbers & Pronunciation or 7 Colloquial French Expressions with Numbers.

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0) Zéro

Zéro (= 0, zero) → Just like in English, but with “un accent aigu” (= the accent on “é”).

Colloquial expression :
Avoir la boule à zéro → To be bald / to have a shaved head.

For example:
Michel a l’air plus jeune, depuis qu’il a la boule à zéro.
Michel looks younger since he shaved his head.

1) Un

Un (= 1, one) → It’s a difficult sound (nasal sound) if you’re not used to it. You can listen to the correct pronunciation in the video lesson.

This is the most common French number, since it’s also the “masculine indefinite article” ( = the word “a” in English).
Un chien = a dog

The “n” is silent except for la liaison. For example:
Un chat (= a cat) → “chat” starts with a consonant (“c”), so there’s no liaison, the “n” is silent
Un ours (= a bear) → “ours” starts with a vowel (“o”), so there’s a liaison between “un” and “ours.” It sounds like [“un nours”].

French expressions with “Un” :
Un tiens vaut mieux que deux tu l’auras → A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
(This expression means literally: One “take it, here it is” is worth two “you’ll have it later.”)

La une (d’un journal) → The front page (of a newspaper)

2) Deux

Deux (= 2, two) → Sounds like “de.”
The “x” is silent, except for la liaison when it sounds like “z
Deux chaussures (= two shoes) → no liaison, sounds like “[deu chaussures]”
Deux amis (= two friends) → liaison, sounds like “[deu zamis]”

French expressions with “Deux” :
Faire d’une pierre deux coups → Killing two birds with one stone
(Literally, “hitting twice with one stone”)

For example:
On peut aller à Lille samedi, et faire d’une pierre deux coups : on passe voir ton amie, et on peut aller voir la nouvelle exposition.
We can go to Lille on Saturday and kill two birds with one stone: we go see your friend, and we can also check out the new exhibition.

3) Trois

Trois (= 3, three) → the “s” is silent, except for la liaison where it sounds like “z

Trois chats (= three cats) → “s” is silent
Trois oiseaux (= three birds) → liaison, sounds like “[troi zoizo]”

French expression with “Trois” :
Jamais deux sans trois → Things always come in threes.
(Literally, “Two never comes without three.”)

For example:
On va au bar ce soir ? Oui je sais ça fait deux soirs de suite, mais jamais deux sans trois!
Do you want to go to the bar tonight? Yeah, I know we’ve done it for two days straight, but things always come in threes!

4) Quatre

Quatre (= 4, four) → The “u” is silent, and the “e” is cut. It sounds like “Catr.”

French expression with “Quatre” :
Couper les cheveux en quatre → Splitting hairs (to waste time)
(Literally, “Cutting hairs in four strands”)

For example:
Bon, on va pas couper les cheveux en quatre : on y va.
OK, let’s not waste time splitting hairs: let’s go.

In real spoken French: when “Quatre” comes before a consonant, you can cut the “R” and just say “Cat” !
Quatre cadeaux (= four gifts) → Quat’cadeaux (“[Cat cado]”)

5) Cinq

Cinq (= 5, five) → the “in” sound sounds the same as “un

French expression with “Cinq” :
Le mouton à cinq pattes → It’s often a “unicorn,” an ideal person with so many qualities, that they can’t possibly really exist.
(Literally, it’s “a five-legged sheep”)

For example:
J’ai lu ton offre d’embauche, tu cherches le mouton à cinq pattes !
I’ve read your hiring offer, you’re looking for a unicorn!

La cinquième roue du carrosse → (Feeling like) the third wheel
Literally, it means “the fifth wheel of the carriage.”

6) Six

Six (= 6, six) → It sounds like “Sis” (as in “Sister”), on its own or at the end of a sentence.

When it’s before a consonant, we pronounce it “Si.”
When it’s before a vowel (la liaison !), it sounds like “Siz.”

Six Américains → “[Si Zaméricain]”

French expression with “Six” :
Trois francs six sous → Cheap = Pas cher (We don’t have a 1-word translation for “cheap.”)
(Literally, “3 francs and six cents”)

For example :
Tu aimes mon écharpe ? Je l’ai eue pour trois francs six sous.
Do you like my scarf? I got it for really cheap.

7) Sept

Sept (= 7, seven) → It’s pronounced like “Set” (the “p” is silent!)

French expression with “Sept” :
Il faut tourner sa langue sept fois dans sa bouche avant de parler Think twice before you speak
(Literally, “you should turn your tongue seven times in your mouth before you speak”)

Also, a popular card games is Le jeu des sept famillesHappy families.
Exemple d’un jeu des sept familles.

8) Huit

Huit (= 8, eight) → Alone, it sounds like “Uitt”
Before a consonant, the “t” is silent: Hui(t) Canadiens (= Eight Canadians)
Before a vowel, we often hear the “t”: Huit Américains (= Eight Americans)

French expression with “Sept” :
…en huit → a day in the week that starts after the 8th of the month.

For example:
Allez, on se voit mercredi en huit.
Ok, let’s meet again on Wednesday, after Monday the 8th.

Sous huitaine → In less than eight days

For example:
Je vous envoie le dossier sous huitaine.
I’ll send you the file by next week plus a day.

9) Neuf

Neuf (= 9, nine) → “Neuf” also means new (for a masculine singular noun)

French expression with “Neuf” :
Comme un sou neuf (= like a new coin) → clean and shiny.

For example:
J’ai nettoyé mes bottes, elles sont brillantes comme un sou neuf.
I cleaned my boots, they’re shining like a new coin.

( → This expression sounds a bit old fashioned, to be honest. Also here “neuf” means new and not nine.)

For advanced learners:
Sometimes, the final “f” sounds like “v” for some specific liaison.
Mainly in:
Neuf heures (= 9 o’clock, or nine hours) → sounds like “[neuveur]”
Neuf hommes (= nine men) → sounds like “[neuvom]”

10) Dix

Dix (= 10, ten) → On its own, it sounds like “Diss.”
Before a consonant, it sounds like “Dee” → Dix livres (= ten pounds, “[di livre]”)
Before a vowel, it sounds like “Deez” → Dix euros (= ten euros, “[diz euro]”)

French expression with “Dix” :
Un de perdu, dix de retrouvés / Une de perdue, dix de retrouvées → There are plenty more fish in the sea.
(Literally, “when you lose one, you quickly find ten.”)

You can use it when your friend broke up with someone and you want a nice-sounding cliché to cheer them up.

Oh, elle est partie ? Dommage. Tu sais, une de perdue, dix de retrouvées…
Oh, she’s gone? Too bad. You know, there’s plenty of fish in the sea…

11) QUIZ!

Let’s see if you got it – with a quiz, one question according to your level:

Beginner: How do you say “four” in French?
Intermediate: How do you say “There are plenty more fish in the sea”?
Advanced: How do you pronounce “neuf heures”?

Find the answers in the lesson above!

Want to save this for later ?

Your turn now – ET TOI ?

→ What did you learn today?

You can answer in the comment section on the blog, I can’t wait to hear from you!

For example, you can write:
“J’ai découvert l’expression “3 francs six sous” qui veut dire “pas cher”.”
(= I found out the expression “3 francs six sous” that means “cheap”)

I read all the answers on the blog, and I can give you tips to improve as well!

And now:
→ If you enjoyed this lesson (and/or learned something new) – why not share this lesson with a francophile friend? You can talk about it afterwards! You’ll learn much more if you have social support from your friends 🙂

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Et bonne année 🙂

Join the conversation!

  • Merci beaucoup Géraldine le mot cinq peut être parlé comme ‘sunk’ un anglais pas comme ‘sank’?? Qu’est que tu pense?

  • Hi Géraldine, great lesson. I would love a lesson on giving compliments as I struggle to say nice things in social situations and I find translations don’t sound natural. Thanks, Karen.

  • geraldine you mentioned in this lesson that there is no French word for CHEAP so you use PAS CHER so what does BON MARCHE mean?

  • Bonsoir Géraldine. J’aime bien apprendre de nouvelles expressions. Merci! Vous n’avez pas trouvé d’expression pour 8, mais vous avez donné l’exemple de 8 Américains pour la prononciation. C’est un jeu de carte que j’ai joué en France, il y a TRES longtemps, avec ma correspondante francaise et sa famille. Vous m’avez rappellé d’un tres beau souvenir.

  • Great lesson, as always, Geraldine! I would just like to say that in American English, the vowel in the French word ‘six’ is longer (more like ‘ee’) than that in ‘sister’ (which is shorter, like the ‘i’ in ‘it’). Perhaps the word ‘seesaw’ would be a better example. And for ‘dix’, I would suggest the vowel sound in the English word ‘deep’, rather than ‘diss’, which is a shorter sound. Excusez-moi de couper les cheveux en quatre!

  • Bonsoir, Géraldine ! Magnifique leçon ! Ces expressions, elles sont toutes très intéressantes pour moi ! Je connaissais justement l’expression « faire d’une pierre deux coups ». Et une fois j’ai bousculé dans une phrase qui m’a parue très étrange : « ils deviennent des célébrités, font la une des journaux … », mais j’ai réglé cette énigme avec « la une » juste maintenant et grâce à toi, Géraldine ! Merci du fond du cœur !

  • Merci pour la video, Geraldine, j’ai appris plein d’expressions!
    En anglais on utilise ‘third wheel’ quand on est avec un couple (une amie et son copain par exemple) et ils sont tellement ‘lovey dovey’ qu’on se sent completement oublie, mis a cote, meme un peu mal a l’aise.

  • Très utile comme toujours ! Comme Jane, je trouve que l’explication pour “en huit” ou “huitaine” est peut-être pas correcte. Tu peux clarifier, stp ?

  • Bonsoir Géraldine
    Très bien leçon comme toujours! Moi j’aime particulièrement les expressions. Certains je ne connaissais pas du tout. J’apprends toujours.
    A la suite
    Fiona.

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