Discuss and learn French: French vocabulary, French grammar, French culture etc.
This is a question about spoken non-arithmetic numbers – numbers found in labels and identifications such as telephone numbers, badge numbers, account numbers, years, telephone numbers, license plate numbers, and street addresses, for example. Numbers you don't add, subtract, or otherwise manipulate.
Is there a uniform, standard way of speaking such numbers?
In American English, I tend to be relatively casual about this. For example, when asked my phone number, I usually reply with each digit of the area code and exchange, but the remainder I express as something like "twelve forty seven". But if the last four digits were 8006, I'd never say "eighty six" for that would be ambiguous and leave my listener wondering what the remaining part of the number was.
It occurs to me that this could be ambiguous in another way in French. If my address were 427 Main Street, in English I'd not hesitate to say "four twenty seven Main Street", but in French, "quatre vingt sept" has a completely different meaning. As another example, 6012: "sixty twelve" would be no problem, but "soixante douze" would send my auditeur to the wrong address.
Even if unambiguous, is there a standard? When I first started learning French, I learned the year as something like dix-neuf cents soixante-six. In English, we'd (usually) leave off the "hundred" and just say nineteen sixty six. Formally, we might hear "in the year one thousand nine hundred and sixty six". Since then I learned that "mille neuf cents …" is acceptable, too. (Is one preferred over the other?)
I don't recall ever hearing a ZIP code spoken in English other than digit by digit. "Oh five oh three eight." Certainly never "five thousand thirty eight."
Okay, so that's my question. How do les français and other francophones speak such numbers? Does the Academie dictate this?
as a rule for phone numbers we consider them like pair of digits, for instance take this phone number:
02 98 65 66 45 you'd say zero deux/ quatre vingt dix huit/ soixante cinq/ soixante six/ quarante cinq
for addresses like "427 Main street" you'd say quatre cent vingt sept ...
and for 6012 (that would never occur in French addresses by the way) six mille douze
To confirm Vardas post I would say that for number we pronounce the entire number from the beginning to the end, all thousand and hundred included.
The only exemption is phone numbers who always work by pairs.
For address for example, if the number is 7620 route de Grenoble.... we will say "Sept mille six cent ving" route de Grenoble. Never "soixante seize vingt".
Other example: 06000 Nice -> we say " zéro six mille" Nice
Same for license plate number.
When faced with a very long number (like bank account or bar-code) we "cut" them in pieces of 2, 3 or 4 digits. There is no particular rule, it's just easier to be understood this way and avoid mistakes. You can also mix groups of 2, 3 and 4 digits as long as it helps the person you are talking to.
for example with: 00001996735 -> I will say: "quatre zéros" (= four zeros) "mille neuf cent quatre vingt seize" (1996) "sept cent trente cinq" (735).
I first tell how many zero I have, then I chose a group of 4 digits because it looks like a date, and the rest is a group of tree.