French Consonants

Many consonants in French are pronounced similarly to those in English. However, with the exception of the French R, French consonants are pronounced further forward in the mouth than their English equivalents. French consonants are pronounced with no initial aspiration but with a slight aspiration afterward. Below we'll explore the various French consonants and their pronunciations. Listen to each audio, then repeat what you hear aloud.

ç

The letter c, when modified by the cedille (ç), produces the soft "s" sound. The cedille is unnecessary for c to produce its soft sound when c is followed by the letter e or i, however.

how are you?
ça va?
(sah-vah)
boy
garçon
(gar-sohn)
niece
nièce
(nee-ess)

ch

The French letter combination "ch" produces the same sound as "sh" in English.

choice
choix
(sh-wah)
hot
chaud
(sh-oh)

However, there are a handful of exceptions in French when "ch" produces the "k" sound.

chaos
chaos
(kah-oh)

g

Much like in English, g has both a soft sound and a hard sound in French. The difference from English arises primarily in the soft sound, which is always pronounced like the g in the word "mirage." The soft sound occurs when g is followed by the letters e, i, or y.

George
Georges
(zh-or-zh-[euh])
giant
géant
(zh-ay-ahn)

h

The letter "h," though present in French, is always silent. Nevertheless, in French, it comes in two forms: muet or aspiré. Muet, literally translated as "mute," means that the words that begin with it will act as though they began with the vowel that follows the h.

the hotel
l'hôtel
(low-tehl)
(the) winter
l'hiver
(lee-vehr)

The aspiré form of h occurs primarily with "h" words borrowed from other languages. The primary difference is that contractions (like l' in "l'hiver") are not permitted.

the axe
la hache
(lah ah-sh)
(the) hockey
le hockey
(leuh oh-key)

j

The French j is always pronounced like the g in "mirage" (zh). It is the same sound as the soft g in French.

I
je
(zh-euh)
yellow
jaune
(zh-oh-n)

ps

The letter combination "ps" is pronounced as "ps" (such as in the end of the word "apes.") In other words, the "p" sound is not dropped as it is in English.

psychology
psychologie
(ps-ee-koh-loh-zh-ee)

qu

Unlike instances in English, the letter combination "qu" in French does not produce the "qwa" sound, but rather the "k" sound.

who
qui
(k-ee)
when
quand
(k-ah-[n])

r

The French r is pronounced in the back of the throat. There is no English equivalent, so it is recommended to seek the help of a native speaker, or to follow tutorials online.

red
rouge
(r-oo-zh)
rat
rat
(r-ah)

s

The French s is generally pronounced like the English s, with one exception. When the French s is between two vowels, it is pronounced as a z.

sugar
sucre
(s-oo-kr-euh)
face
visage
(vee-z-ah-zh)

The occurence of the z sound also occurs when the s at the end of a word flows into the starting vowel of the next word (i.e., liasons, where the end of one word flows into the beginning of the next).

they have
ils ont
(eel-z-oh-[n])
you have
(formal)
vous avez
(voo-z-ah-vay)

th

The letter combination "th" in French produces a hard "t" sound.

tea
thé
(t-ay)
theater
théâtre
(tay-ah-treuh)

ti

The letter combination "ti" in French is pronounced as "see." This is particularly important to remember with -tion words.

attention
attention
(ah-tawn-see-ohn)
prophecy
prophétie
(pro-feh-see)

There are some exceptions to this occurence where "ti" is simply pronounced "tee." These exceptions are with the prefix anti-, when the suffix -tie is preceded by a consonant, and when -ti is followed by a consonant.

antisocial
antisocial
(ahn-tee-soh-see-ahl)
part
partie
(pahr-tee)
athletic
athlétique
(at-le-tee-k)
question
question
(kess-tee-ohn)

w

The letter w (which is named "double-v" in French) makes a "v" sound. It is very uncommon.

wagon
wagon
(vah-goh-[n])

x

The letter x has a hard pronunciation and a soft pronuncation. The hard pronunciation "gz" generally occurs at the beginning or middle of a word.

xenophobic
xenophobe
(gz-ehn-oh-foh-b)

The soft pronunciation, "ks," generally occurs in the middle of the end of a word.

tax
taxe
(t-ah-ks)

An exception to both of these occurs with French numbers ending in x, which is pronounced as "s."

ten
dix
(dee-s)

y

The letter y functions as both a vowel and a consonant. See the French Vowels sections for a complete explanation.

Happy
(vowel)
Joyeux
there
(consonant)
y

Consonants that are silent at the end of most words in French: d, s, t, p, z.

big
grand
(gr-ah-[n])
friends
amis
(ah-mee)
flat
plat
(pl-ah)
too much
trop
(tr-oh)
nose
nez
(n-ay)