TNs, U23: Numbers 1(Zéro to Vingt, Uses of Un)
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.
Uses of Un
The word un (or une in feminine) can be used in a number of ways:
- 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
- As a numeral ("one"), which is a kind of adjective.
- J'ai une seule question. — I have only one question.
- 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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