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TNs, U23: Numbers 1(Zéro to Vingt, Uses of Un)

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Between 0 and 20, most French numbers are constructed similarly to English numbers. The main difference is that French starts using compound numbers at dix-sept (17), while English continues with single-word numbers until 21.

Number French
0 zéro
1 un
2 deux
3 trois
4 quatre
5 cinq
6 six
7 sept
8 huit
9 neuf
10 dix
11 onze
12 douze
13 treize
14 quatorze
15 quinze
16 seize
17 dix-sept
18 dix-huit
19 dix-neuf
20 vingt

Uses of Un

The word un (or une in feminine) can be used in a number of ways:

  1. As an indefinite article ("a" or "an"), which is used to modify countable nouns that are unspecified or unknown to the speakers.
    • un livre — a book
    • une lettre — a letter
  2. As a numeral ("one"), which is a kind of adjective.
    • J'ai une seule question. — I have only one question.
  3. As a pronoun ("one"). Like in English, French numbers can be used as pronouns. In general, when you see a preposition like de after a number, that number acts as a pronoun.
    • C'est un de mes enfants. — He is one of my children.
    • Je connais une de ces femmes. — I know one of those women.

Note: In either example above, you can use l’un or l’une as an optional, more formal alternative. It is generally recognized that the addition of the elided definite article l’ can avoid a vowel sound conflict, and the omission of it a consonant sound conflict. However, l’un or l’une is preferable at the beginning of a sentence or before a plural personal pronoun.

  • C’est notre fils et l’un de ses amis. (et un: vowel sound conflict) — This is our son and one of his friends.
  • Il appelle un de ses amis. (appelle l’un: consonant sound conflict) — He is calling one of his friends.
  • L’une des pommes est rouge. — One of the apples is red.
  • Nous allons choisir l’une de vous. — We will choose one of you.

Also, keep in mind that liaisons are forbidden before and after et with one notable exception in the number vingt et un [vɛ̃ te œ̃].

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