Fractions

French fractions
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Les fractions

In both French and English, there’s a lot of overlap between fractions and ordinals: the vast majority of these two types of numbers share the same word. In English, they are identical from "third" on up, while in French they’re the same starting with cinquième.

half 1/2 un demi, une demie
a third 1/3 un tiers
a fourth 1/4 un quart
a fifth 1/5 un cinquième
a sixth 1/6 un sixième
a seventh 1/7 un septième
an eighth 1/8 un huitième
a ninth 1/9 un neuvième
a tenth 1/10 un dixième
an eleventh 1/11 un onzième
a twelfth 1/12 un douzième
etc.    

Creating fractions

Other than demi, tiers, and quart, all French fractions are based on their corresponding cardinal numbers:

cardinal   add -ième  
six   un sixième 1/6
vingt et un   un vingt et unième 1/21
cent   un centième 1/100

When the cardinal number ends in -e, that letter is dropped before the fraction ending:

cardinal drop -e   add -ième  
onze onz   un onzième 1/11
cinquante cinquant   un cinquantième 1/50

Two other numbers require minor spelling corrections in their fractions:

cardinal correction   add -ième  
cinq cinqu   un cinquième 1/5
neuf neuv   un neuvième 1/9

Of course, those corrections are also required in un dix-neuvième, un vingt-cinquième, etc.

  Demi can be feminine when used as a noun or when it follows a noun.

J’ai acheté une bouteille et lui, une demie.   I bought a bottle and he bought a half (bottle).
une heure et demie   an hour and a half, one and half hours

But when demi precedes a noun, it always stays in the masculine form.

une demi-bouteille   a half-bottle
une demi-heure   a half-hour

All other French fractions are always masculine and must be preceded by a number.

3/4   trois quarts
2/5   deux cinquièmes
9/10   neuf dixièmes

And if they’re followed by a noun, the preposition de is needed as a go-between.

3/4 of the students   trois quarts des étudiants
2/5 of the book   deux cinquièmes du livre
9/10 of our revenue   neuf dixièmes de nos revenus

  Fractions and ordinal numbers are abbreviated differently. The fraction un cinquième can only be abbreviated 1/5, whereas the ordinal cinquième is shortened to 5e.

 More French Numbers

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French fractions


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1 Response

  1. Faux Frenchie 21 January 2015 / 8:26

    How funny! The fraction/ordinal overlap never occurred to me before, let alone that the overlap starts in a different place in each language. But once I got thinking of that I realized there’s another overlap situation like that, namely musical intervals. In English, we talk about a second, third, forth, fifth, sixth, seventh, etc., as the distance between two notes (the main exception being to say octave instead of eighth). In French, nothing matches until septième, then octave just like in English, then normal again (neuvième, etc.). But French has a bunch of other words for the smaller musical intervals: ton mineur/majeur, tierce, quarte, quinte, sixte.

    Oh, and just to keep things exciting: it’s UN intervalle, but UNE tierce, quarte, quinte, septième, octave, neuvième, etc., much like it’s UNE note, but UN do, re, me, fa, sol, la, si, etc.

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