French Accents

There are 5 French accents:

  1. the cédille Ç,
  2. the accent aigu é,
  3. the accent circonflexe â, ê, î, ô, û,
  4. the accent grave à, è, ù
  5. and the accent tréma ë, ï, ü.
Listen to the audio of the French accents and practice your pronunciation with our voice recognition tool, as well as going through other French lessons.

An important thing to know about pronouncing French words is that the French accent marks can completely change the pronunciation of a word. Luckily, most accent marks don't actually do very much! 

The 5 French accents;

  • 1 for a consonant
  • 4 for vowels

1. The cédille (cedilla) Ç

The cédille is only used on the letter C. It changes a hard "c" sound (like "k") into a soft "c" sound (like "s"). Ç is never used before the vowels e or i, as these 2 vowels always produce a soft "s" sound (glace, ici).

Le caleçon

The underwear

Les garçons

The boys

Le jeu du garçon

The boy’s game (Lit. the game of the boy)

Reçu

Receipt

Ça dure...

It lasts... / It takes...

2. The accent aigu (acute accent) é

The accent aigu is only used on the letter e.

Le canapé

The sofa

Le café

The coffee

Soufflé

Breathed

3. The accent circonflexe (circumflex) â, ê, î, ô, û

The accent circonflex indicates that (historically) an "s" used to follow that vowel e.g.  écouter and escouter

Le vieux château

The old castle

Une fête

A party/gathering/feast

Le dîner

Evening meal

L'hôtel

The hotel

Bien sûr

Of course

4. The accent grave (grave accent) à, è, ù

With a and u, the accent grave is used to differentiate some words;
  • à "to" versus a "has"
  • "where" versus ou "or"

Where

Voilà !

There you go!

5. The accent tréma (dieresis/umlaut) ë, ï, ü

The accent tréma indicates that the vowel is to be pronounced separately from the one immediately before it.

Noël

Christmas

L'aïeul

The ancestor

Notes!

  • Sometimes the French accents are left off capital letters!
  • If the correct French accent isn't used then it would be regarded as a spelling mistake!

More on é and è

Some French accents do change the pronunciation and need to be learned and practiced. The é and the è are the two most common. Look at the pronunciation guide below and listen and practice.

é

(pronunciation = ay)

été

Summer

è

(pronunciation = eh)

mère

Mother

That's probably enough pronunciation practice for now! Remember the more you listen, the more you'll be able to recognize words as they're spoken.

I would strongly recommend that you check out this lesson on the French alphabet next!

À bientôt !
Marie-Claire Rivière and the Rocket French Team


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