Swiss-French, or the French spoken in Switzerland has its own regional flavor. The most obvious one will be counting from 70 to 99.
70 septante (CH, B) – soixante-dix (F)
71 septante et un – soixante et onze
72 septante-deux – soixante-douze
73 septante-trois – soixante-treize
74 septante-quatre – soixante-quatorze
75 septante-cinq – soixante-quinze
76 septante-six – soixante-seize
77 septante-sept – soixante-dix-sept
78 septante-huit – soixante-dix-huit
79 septante-neuf – soixante-dix-neuf
We begin to agree with the 80s. But…some French-speaking cantons, such as Vaud, Fribourg and Valais will use: huitante, huitante et un, huitante-deux, huitante-trois…
80 quatre-vingts (CH, F, B) – note the “s”, removed from the other 80-something
Schism in the 90s:
90 nonante (CH, B)- quatre-vingt-dix (F)
91 nonante et un – quatre-vingt-onze
92 nonante-deux – quatre-vingt-douze
93 nonante-trois – quatre-vingt-treize
94 nonante-quatre – quatre-vingt-quatorze
95 nonante-cinq – quatre-vingt-quinze
96 nonante-six – quatre-vingt-seize
97 nonante-sept – quatre-vingt-dix-sept
98 nonante-huit – quatre-vingt-dix-huit
99 nonante-neuf – quatre-vingt-dix-neuf
I actually wrote this post as a reaction to reading that French-speaking Swiss say octante for 80. I had never heard of it. This wonderful page here will tell you about octante et huitante. Browse through the menus to discover a milliasse (!).
Another important point is when to add the “s” to quatre-vingts:
- When 80 stands alone or ends the number, add the “s”: quatre-vingts, trois cents quatre-vingts
- When 80 is followed by a number, remove the “s”: quatre-vingt-cinq, or quatre-vingt mille hommes
- When 80 follows a noun (usually seen for a rank, listing, etc.), remove the “s”: page quatre-vingt because it is understood that it is the 80th page, la quatre-vingtième page
Awful exceptions include: au moins quatre-vingts ans (at least 80 years old) because 80 is not followed by a number (ex., 83), and this isn’t a list, it refers to an age/time period; quatre-vingt millions because millions isn’t a cardinal number, it is a noun…les années quatre-vingt, because a decade is a ranking of years. Sounds confusing? I agree, especially with million vs quatre-vingts grammes (see this exercise). In doubt, write 80, or with 20, une vingtaine (about twenty).
I personally have found one situation where I prefer French-French numbers, and that is for “93”, a wonderful novel by Victor Hugo on the French Revolution. The title sounds great as Quatre-vingt treize and rather weak as nonante-trois.
As a kid, my book had a similar cover as this one below and I was happily saying how I’d read Nonante-trois by Victor Hugo. I was in the US at the time, so there wasn’t much of a crowd there to say, “Actually…this amazing book is called Quatre-vingt-treize“. To illustrate how deeply ingrained language habits are, let me add that the few French people I spoke to about the book did not make the connection: puzzled, they replied that they were not familiar with “Nonante-trois” by Victor Hugo…