Une dizaine = Ten or so (approximate numbers)

Look at these sentences using approximate numbers:

J'ai une dizaine de chats.
I have about ten cats.

Il achète une trentaine de poires.

He is buying thirty or so pears.

Il y avait une centaine de personnes ce jour-là.
There was a hundred or so people that day.

Je veux deux douzaines de pommes, s'il vous plaît.
I want two dozen apples, please.

In French, to express an approximative number (ten or so, about fifteen...), you can add une/deux/trois ... in front of the number and the suffix -aine at the end of it, as follows:

Number Approximate
10 / dix une dizaine
12 / douze une douzaine
15 / quinze une quinzaine
20 / vingt une vingtaine
30 / trente une trentaine
40 / quarante une quarantaine
50 / cinquante une cinquantaine
60 / soixante une soixantaine
100 / cent une centaine

This is the equivalent in English of saying ten or so, around twenty, or fifteen odd. As in English, douzaine (dozen) means 12 rather than being an approximate number, but the construction is the same as for approximate numbers.

Note: These approximate numbers are feminine, and followed by de. 

ATTENTION: Whereas you'd tend to say in English dozens and dozens, in French the use of dizaine (ten or so) will be more colloquial: des dizaines et des dizaines.

Des dizaines et des dizaines de personnes sont venues à la foire.
Dozens and dozens of people attended the fair.

 

Examples and resources

Il achète une trentaine de poires.

He is buying thirty or so pears.


Je veux deux douzaines de pommes, s'il vous plaît.
I want two dozen apples, please.


Des dizaines et des dizaines de personnes sont venues à la foire.
Dozens and dozens of people attended the fair.


Il y avait une centaine de personnes ce jour-là.
There was a hundred or so people that day.


J'ai une dizaine de chats.
I have about ten cats.


Q&A

Jennifer

Kwiziq community member

6 March 2018

1 reply

Une douzaine de means twelve or about twelve

I think I have it now. It is only une douzaine de which can be precisely a dozen or about a dozen, the other -aine numbers are always approximate. Correct?

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

6 March 2018

6/03/18

Oui, c'est bien ça !

Jennifer

Kwiziq community member

6 March 2018

2 replies

Je voudrais quinnze pommes v je voudrais une quinzaine de pommes?

If you wanted to say i would like 15 apples would you use quinze and une quinzaine de for about fifteen apples?

Chris

Kwiziq community member

6 March 2018

6/03/18

Yes, correct.


-- Chris (not a native speaker).

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

6 March 2018

6/03/18

Bonjour Jennifer !


If you wanted exactly 15 apples, then you'd use "quinze".
"Une quinzaine de" is a way to give an approximate amount :)


Bonne journée !

Melody

Kwiziq community member

23 October 2016

3 replies

une douzaine = ?

I looked this up in Larousse online, and Collins Fr/En dictionary online. I was trying to figure out how to say "I want a dozen eggs" instead of "I want about a dozen eggs". --- http://www.larousse.fr/dictionnaires/francais-anglais/douzaine/26535 douzaine [duzεn] nom féminin 1. [douze] dozen 2. [environ douze] une douzaine de a dozen, around twelve une douzaine d'escargots a dozen snails une douzaine de pages about ou roughly twelve pages ---------------------------- http://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/french-english/dizaine English translation of douzaine douzaine (duzɛn ) Translations feminine noun (= 12) "dozen" " ⇒ une douzaine d'œufs" "a dozen eggs" (= environ 12) une douzaine "a dozen or so" une douzaine de "about twelve", "a dozen or so" une douzaine de personnes "about twelve people" --------------------------------------------------------------- From above: une douzaine d'escargots a dozen snails (Larousse) une douzaine d'œufs a dozen eggs (Collins) (Unfortunate that both items start with vowels, thus d' instead of de. I doubt that makes a difference between "about a dozen" and "a dozen.) -------------------------------------------------------------- Help appreciated her. Thanks.

Melody

Kwiziq community member

23 October 2016

23/10/16

p.s. It would be nice to be able to preview one's comment. It was a lot clearer b/c of line breaks I put in while typing, and as they appeared before I sent it off- not all mushed together as it appears. (Also, one could have a second look to correct typos: her = here

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

24 October 2016

24/10/16

Bonjour Melody !

The fact is that "une douzaine de" carries exactly the same nuances of meaning as "a dozen" does in English. In some cases, it can mean exactly twelve , and in some other cases it can be more of an estimation.
The difficulty here is that whereas in English you only use "dozen", in French, we have equivalent terms for other quantities (dizaine, quinzaine...).
A way to emphasise the "estimation" sense could be to say "environ une douzaine de", but it would sound redundant, as the approximation is already carried in "douzaine". The context is key here.

I hope that's helpful!
À bientôt !

Melody

Kwiziq community member

24 October 2016

24/10/16

Hi Aurelie,
Thanks for the answer. It is very helpful. I'll stop driving myself crazy about this issue!
So many words in French (and in English) depend on context. But not necessarily the same words! I saw that some had asked in the Qs how to know if "son frere" (sorry I can't type accents) meant his brother, or her brother. I've learned enough French to know that the answer to this is one "context is key", as you say.
As to the English use of "dozen', I hadn't thought of it this way, before I read your comment. If say I "I want a dozen eggs", that means "I want exactly a dozen eggs, no more no less."
But reading your comment I thought about me, Melody, saying "There were a dozen people at the meeting". I realized that my meaning would be "There were a dozen people at the meeting, more or less." I would not be saying (=meaning) "There were a dozen people at the meeting, I made an exact count." If I wanted to emphasize the exact number, I would way "There were twelve people at the meeting."

Thanks again, as ever, for your helpful reply.
Melody


steve

Kwiziq community member

16 October 2016

1 reply

Hi How would you say about 70, 80 or 90 thanks

Laura

Kwiziq language super star

16 October 2016

16/10/16

Bonjour Steve,

You'd use one of the following with the number:

environ
à peu près
approximativement
plus ou moins

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