Chinese Numbers Are Easy: Chinese vs French on the Number 99

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Two completely distinct languages, with their own grammar rules, concepts and vocabulary. I could spend all day talking about the differences in both languages, but I’m going to concentrate on something rather peculiar today: hurting your brain to say something simple.

Look at this number: 99.


In Chinese, it’s written as 九十九 (jiǔ shí jiǔ).

九十 (jiǔ shí) – ninety; 九 (jiǔ) – nine. So literally, ninety-nine. Just like in English. Chinese numbers are easy and straightforward.

In French, however, 99 is written as quatre-vingt-dix-neuf.

That’s quite a mouthful. Let’s break it down.

Quatre-vingts – that’s four twenties. In other words, eighty (because 4 times 20 equals 80).

chinese numbers are easy

Dix=ten; neuf=nine. Therefore, dix-neuf is ten-(plus)-nine, which equals nineteen.

Therefore, quatre-vingt-dix-neuf is therefore four-twenties-(plus)-nineteen, or eighty-(plus)-nineteen.

Putting this into numbers, we get 80 + 19 = 99.

Therefore quatre-vingt-dix-neuf is 99 in French.

That’s pretty confusing, in Chinese and English, 99 is just “ninety-nine”. No one has time these days to do mental math and say 5 syllables to say a number under 100. Another reason why Chinese isn’t actually that hard to learn!

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