French Language Blog

Voici Mon Numéro, So Call Me Maybe! Posted by on Apr 10, 2015 in Culture

Do you know how to appeler quelqu’un (call someone) in France? Do you understand how the French say and write les numéros de téléphone (phone numbers)? Les numéros de téléphone around the world are not always the same. Un numéro de téléphone français could just look like a series of random numbers if you’ve never seen one before!

Aux USA (in the US), a phone number has the area code followed by the phone number. The actual number will be presented with the area code first then the 7 digit phone number split up into one group of 3 and one group of 4.

Voici un numéro de téléphone américain:
(978) 555-5003

En anglais, each digit is said as a separate word with a small pause between the groupings:

nine seven eight — five five five — five zero zero three

Cependant (however), les numéros de téléphone français (French phone numbers) are not written the same way. Les numéros are split up into groups of two digits with a separator between them, usually un espace (a space). The first two numéros work like area codes in the US.

Voici un numéro de téléphone français:
01 31 81 92 68

En français, the number is read off with each group said as one number, with 01-09 adding a zéro for clarity:

zéro un — trente et un — quatre-vingt-un — quatre-vingt-douze — soixante-huit
zero one — thirty one — eighty one — ninety two — sixty eight

Si le français n’est pas ta langue maternelle (if French isn’t your native language), the hardest part is hearing les numéros correctly. Les numéros français around 70 and above tend to get a little strange for English speakers. The way that soixante-dix (sixty-ten) is 70 and quatre-vingt-dix (four twenties and ten) is 90!

When someone says their phone number you have to quickly decide whether Soixantedix is 60 10 or 70, or whether quatrevingtdix is 4 20 10 or 90. You’ll quickly realize you’ve misheard something if you appelle la mauvaise personne (call the wrong person)!

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About the Author: John Bauer

John Bauer is an enthusiast for all things language and travel. He currently lives in France where he's doing his Master's. John came to France four years ago knowing nothing about the language or the country, but through all the mistakes over the years, he's started figuring things out.


  1. Joel Botello:

    Thanks for the explanations and examples!

    • John Bauer:

      @Joel Botello Thanks for the nice comment! If you have any questions you can ask them here!

  2. Noé:

    Certains Acadiens disent septante, huiptante et nonante which is apparently quite common in Belgium, as well. Often, when reading out a phone number, “un, trois, un, huiptante-et-un, nonante-deux” I am told that I count “comme un Belge.” This does eliminate the whole four-twenty-fourteen situation, but as not many people use septante, huiptante et nonante, it causes just as much confusion, if not more.

  3. Lala:

    You’re amazing! This is superb…love it!