French Accents

In the French language there are 5 important accents: the cédille Ç; the accent aigu é; the accent circonflexe â ê, î, ô, û; the accent grave à, è, ù; and the accent tréma ë, ï, ü. French accents are important because they can completely change how a word is pronounced. However, most accents don't have a big impact on pronunciation. Below we'll introduce you to the 5 different French accents and what they do. Listen to each audio of the French accents and then practice your pronunciation.

´ - accent aigu (acute accent)

This accent can only be used on the letter e (é). This changes its sound to "ay."

student
étudiant
(ay-too-dee-ah-[n])
December
décembre
(day-sahm-br-euh)

` - accent grave (grave accent)

This accent can be found on a, e, or u. With the letter e, it changes the sound to "eh."

brother
frère
(fr-eh-r)
mother
mère
(m-eh-r)

With a or u, it generally distinguishes between words that would otherwise be the same (homogryphs).

or
ou
pronounced "oo"
where
pronounced "oo"


has
a
pronounced "ah"
at
à
pronounced "ah"

ˆ - accent circonflexe (circumflex)

This accent can be found on a, e, i, o, or u. Many times, it indicates that there used to be an "s" following the vowel. With the letter e, it changes the sound to "eh," just as the accent grave.

forest
forêt
(foh-ray)
hospital
hôpital
(oh-p-ee-tahl)
pale
pâle
(p-ahl)

The circumflex can also be used to distinguish between words that would otherwise be the same (homogryphs).

of the
du
pronounced "doo"
owed
pronounced "doo"

¸ - cédille (cedilla)

The cedilla only appears on the letter c, and is used to change the hard c sound (k) to a soft c sound (s) when a vowel that otherwise would not cause this change follows (i.e., not e or i).

boy
garçon
(gahr-sohn)
way; manner
façon
(fah-sohn)

¨ - accent tréma (dieresis)

The dieresis can occur with e, i, or u. I causes that two vowels that are next to each other in a word both be pronounced individually.

Saul
Saül
(sah-ool)
naive
naïve
(nah-eeve)
Christmas
Noël
(noh-ell)