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.

French fractions

half1/2un demi, une demie
a third1/3un tiers
a fourth1/4un quart
a fifth1/5un cinquième
a sixth1/6un sixième
a seventh1/7un septième
an eighth1/8un huitième
a ninth1/9un neuvième
a tenth1/10un dixième
an eleventh1/11un onzième
a twelfth1/12un 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 sixième1/6
vingt et un un vingt et unième1/21
cent un centième1/100

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

cardinaldrop -e add -ième 
onzeonz un onzième1/11
cinquantecinquant un cinquantième1/50

Two other numbers require minor spelling corrections in their fractions:

cardinalcorrection add -ième 
cinqcinqu un cinquième1/5
neufneuv un neuvième1/9

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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3 Responses

  1. :) 20 January 2018 / 7:10

    How would you say 2/21 ?
    Deux vingt et unième or unièmes?

  2. 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.