# What is the correct French spelling of a decimal number like 3.14?

In German I would say for the number 3.14 "drei komma vierzehn" or "drei komma eins vier" which is both used (although in case of Pi which is special, I think people more often say "drei komma vierzehn"). In English this is "three point fourteen" and "three point one four" (I also think both is ok but I am not an native English speaker).

So can I also say in French both for 3.14 like "trois virgule quatorze" and "trois virgule un quatre"?

• In my experience it's pretty rare to hear decimal numbers as anything but individual digits in English, although it's certainly there in the back of our minds to legitimize Pi Day :) Jan 2, 2022 at 14:36
• German too, and I would never say "drei Komma vierzehn". My math teacher in school hated that. I always say "drei Komma eins vier". Jan 3, 2022 at 13:33
• @Robin Related german.stackexchange.com/questions/7622/… Jan 4, 2022 at 9:46
• Thank you very much for all your input! When I was in school and later in university, it was common in math and physics to say drei-komma-vierzehn (or e.g. zwei-komma-zweiundsiebzig for 2.72) but this might not have been correct according to the various links you posted here.
– UweD
Jan 4, 2022 at 10:40
• @UweD If a non negligible amount of native German speakers say it that way, perhaps it shouldn't be considered nicht korrekt... see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linguistic_prescription Jan 5, 2022 at 0:06

Technically, that should be trois virgule quatorze (as this answer states too) but in that particular case, most people I know just say trois-quatorze.

Pourquoi la quadrature du cercle est-elle impossible ? Trois-quatorze-quinze... cette ritournelle bien connue décrit le rapport, appelé nombre Pi, entre la circonférence d'un cercle et son diamètre.
Joaquín Navarro, Les secrets du nombre π, 2011.

I have never heard anyone saying trois virgule un quatre. That would be considered kind of "illiterate", done by someone unable to build numbers from digits. Only the digit 0, especially a leading one, is pronounced individually.

We also generally omit to name the decimal separator or the unit when talking about temperatures or sometimes with prices, e.g. Trente-sept deux le matin (37°2 le matin).

An alternate way, taught at school but rarely used otherwise, is to use a unit for the decimal part:

3,14 : trois quatorze centièmes
3,14159 : trois quatorze mille cent cinquante-neuf cent-millièmes.

In France, like in Germany I believe, decimal numbers are expected to be written with a comma, not a decimal point: 3,14.

• In English though, I've never heard anyone say "fourteen" in this context. "Three fourteen fifteen" would be even weirder. Jan 2, 2022 at 1:59
• I don't know if it's still true for schoolchildren nowadays but as far as I can remember from a very early age I could say trois quatorze cent seize without probably really understanding what it was all about. It was like a catchphrase one had to learn by heart. Et en plus c'était faux !!!!!
– None
Jan 2, 2022 at 10:26
• @None Comme la révolution de 17 189 :-) Jan 2, 2022 at 14:04
• @jlliagre "room 314 would be generally named "three fourteen" in English". True, but that's simply omitting the word "hundred". The values "3.14" and "3.140" are equal, but "three fourteen" and "three one forty" (or "three one hundred forty") sound very different, the second sounding much larger. Saying the digits individually after the decimal mark is the most common, and most reasonable, way of saying it in English. Jan 3, 2022 at 14:47
• I agree with @Harry Audus. If I put 3,141592653589793 in the "leconjugueur" linked above, I get : "trois virgule cent quarante et un billions cinq cent quatre-vingt-douze milliards six cent cinquante-trois millions cinq cent quatre-vingt-neuf mille sept cent quatre-vingt-treize". Not very handy, is it? My question is, could I also simply say "trois virgule un quatre un cinq etc. etc.", so one digit at a time, as I would in German? Jan 17, 2022 at 12:50

While the correct punctuation to use for decimals is a comma, it is common in Canada to say [number] point [number] in informal speech.