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Soixante-dix or Septante?

Nobody really knows why most French natives use soixante-dix (sixty-ten) to describe 70, quatre-vingts for 80 and quatre-vingt-dix for 90. Even though we take today the base ten counting as obvious, it was not always the case: Lincoln’s Gettisburg address first words are a perfect reminder of that (“Four score and seven years…”). Those numbers decompositions may have been easier for people to comprehend larger numbers.  Historically, soixante-dix was recorded officially by the French Academy in the XVIIth century dictionary. Septante, the logical number that should come after soixante-neuf (69), is only used in a few parts of of the francophone world, like Switzerland, Canada or Belgium. There is nothing wrong in using septante (70), octante (80) or nonante (90), especially for beginners, but they should expect to hear the alternate words in most cases, therefore they might as well get use to them.

Bien à vous,

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