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Articles > Vingt or vingts: the plural mark on French numbers

by Alexis Ulrich  LinkedIn

Should we write vingt or vingts? Here is a question that comes up regularly, and not only among French dictation fanatics. Let’s review the grammatical rules of the plural mark for vingt, but also for quatre-vingts, for cent and for some other French numbers.

Vingt or vingts?

When vingt is in singular, in other words, when its multiplier is the unit one, it does not take the plural mark.

J’en voudrais vingt.
Vingt et vingt font quarante.
Les vingt arrondissements de Paris.

When vingt is followed by a cardinal number, which is also called a numeral adjective, it does not take the plural mark.

Les vingt-quatre heures du Mans se déroulent généralement la vingt-quatrième semaine de l’année.
Vingt mille lieues sous les mers, le cinquième livre le plus traduit au monde.

When vingt is followed by a scale name (like million, milliard…), it takes the plural mark.

Jean a gagné vingts millions d’euros à la loterie.

Quatre-vingt or quatre-vingts?

It seems to get more complicated for the number quatre-vingts, but the rules are actually the same.
Quatre-vingts alone is written in the plural form: the vingt multiplier is greater than one.

Gagnez quatre-vingts places de cinéma à notre grand concours !

When quatre-vingts is followed by a cardinal number (a numerical adjective), it does not take the plural mark, which also works for compound numbers.

Une planche de quatre-vingt-quinze centimètres de long.
D’après le CDC, quatre-vingt mille personnes sont décédées de la grippe en 2017.

When quatre-vingts is followed by a scale name (like millier, million, milliard…), it takes the plural mark.

Erreur de la loterie en votre faveur : vous avez gagné quatre-vingts millions d’euros.

These different rules can be expressed in a single one: vingt takes an s when it is multiplied, but loses it before a cardinal number.

Flowchart representing the pluralization rules for the French number vingt (twenty)

Cent or cents?

After having addressed the cases of vingt and quatre-vingts, let’s tackle the number cent which plural rules are also a bit complicated.

The number cent takes the plural mark when it is multiplied and ends the numeral.

Deux cents grammes de farine.

Cent takes the plural mark when it is multiplied and followed by a scale name (millier, million, milliard…).

Une galaxie de trois cents millions d’étoiles.

Cent takes the plural mark when it is a noun.

Des mille et des cents.

In all other cases, cent remains in the singular form.

Deux cent cinquante grammes de farine (cent does not end the numeral)
Les cent un dalmatiens (likewise)
Reprenez la lecture à la page trois cent. (here, cent has an ordinal value, the three-hundredth page)
En l’an mille huit cent (here too, there’s an ordinal value, the one thousand eight hundredth year)

These different rules can be expressed in a single one: cent takes an s when it is multiplied, but loses it before a numerical adjective (a cardinal number).

Flowchart representing the pluralization rules for the French number cent (hundred)

The other numeric adjectives

The other cardinal numeral adjectives remain invariable, like for instance quatre or mille (not to be confused with the nautical mile, which is also written mille in French).

Les quatre saisons
Son voilier a déjà parcouru mille milles.
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