The A section is the only one that remains a difficulty.
- This is usually pronounced more or less like the A in "father," but with the lips wider in French than in English. The a is sometimes pronounced further back in the mouth and with the lips more rounded than for the a sound described above above: listen. Sounds like time in South American and car in Australian.
- This sound is becoming obsolete, but technically should be pronounced when the letter a is followed by a z sound - base, gaz; is followed by a silent s - bas, cas (exception: bras); or has an accent circonflexe - pâtes, âne. Sounds like spa in the UK.
- AI is usually pronounced like È (like the E in "bed"), including when it is followed by S
- When a verb ends in AI, it is pronounced like É (more or less like the A in "gave")
- When AI is followed by a double L, the AI is pronounced like the normal French A (like the A in "father").
- AN/EN: different to ON. Mouth as wide open as open.
- AU/EAU/closed O
- Like a schwa. This sound is often heard in single syllable words like le, me, etc.
- Like the vowel sound in "weigh" except without the y sound at the end. This sound occurs with E with an acute accent, E in an open syllable (i.e., a syllable that ends in a vowel sound), as in trajet and the verb endings -er and -ez.
- Like the E in bed. This sound is found in E with a grave accent, E with a circumflex, E followed by a double consonant and E in a closed syllable (a syllable that ends in a consonant sound), as in sept.
- An unaccented E at the end of a word is called an E muet and may or may not be pronounced.
- EI: This may be pronounced like é or è. Compare treize and bouteille.
- More or less like the u in the English word "full" when EU is in an open syllable (in which the vowel is the last sound in the syllable). Make this by putting the tongue in the é position and the lips in the o position.
- When in a closed syllable (unless there's an accent on the u; see jeune and jeûne), EU is pronounced with a slightly more open mouth.
- IO: The French letter combination IO is pronounced yo (where o is a closed o sound).
- LL: As a general rule, the double L after A, E, O, U, and Y is pronounced like an L. In words with an I followed by LL, the double L is usually pronounced like a Y.
- O: The rules for determining which pronunciation to use are fairly complicated, so only the most important ones are listed here. When in doubt, always check in the dictionary.
- Like the o in "bore". This is called the closed O. This is used when the O has an accent cironflexe ô or the O is the last sound of the syllable (trop, mot, héros, etc).
- Like the o in the NZ/Aus English word "caught". This is called the open O and is used when the O is followed by a consonant sound (notre, téléphone, etc), unless the consonant sound is a z sound (rose, chose), in which case it's a closed O.
- OE: They are pronounced more or less according to the same rules as EU, but there are quite a few exceptions, so it is important to use a dictionary when trying to determine the pronunciation of any word with OE.
- OI: The letters OI in French are pronounced [wa] (where a is the regular A sound).
- ON: The nasal O is pronounced [o(n)], where O is pronounced like ô and (n) equals the nasal sound.
- UN: The nasal U is pronounced [euh(n)], where [euh] is pronounced more or less like the oo in good and (n) equals the nasal sound.
There is the schwa, the É and the È.
- E is the schwa:
- ce, de, je, le, me, ne, que, se, te
- At the end of the word: homme, parlent etc.
- In a non-final syllable after a consonant and before a single consonant sound (devoirs, recherche, logement) or consonant+l/r (chevronné, secrétaire, replacer)
- Misc: re- in front of ss (ressource) and these three words: dessous, dessus and dehors.
- E is not the schwa:
- In front of a double consonant (except just above): verrai, tennis, dessert)
- In front of two non-liquid consonants: restaurant, spectacle
- End of the sentence after an affirmative command: dis-le
Plus is sometimes pronounced [ploos] and other times [ploo]. When plus is used as an adverb, the general idea behind the two pronunciations is this: when plus has a positive meaning (e.g., more, extra, additional, etc.) it is usually pronounced [ploos].* When it is used in a negative sense (as a negative adverb), it is pronounced [ploo], unless it is used as a comparative/superlative adverb, when it is pronounced [ploo] (or [ploos] at the end of a sentence). (Compare je veux plus de beurre and j'ai plus de beurre qu'elle.) The way I remember this is by thinking that the positive sense of the word has an extra sound, while the negative sense does not. In other words, the [s] sound is subtracted when the word has a negative meaning, added when it has a positive meaning.
- Nominal group (i.e. Article, number, or adjective + noun or adjective)
- Verbal group (i.e. Pronoun + pronoun, pronoun + verb)
- Single syllable adverbs, conjunctions, and prepositions (e.g. tout entier, chez elle, très utile, bien étrange and quand on décidera)
- Quand + est-ce que***
- Fixed expressions (e.g. c'est-à-dire, avant hier, plus ou moins, comment allez-vous ?)
- After plural nouns
- Between two-part verbal structures (e.g. je suis allé, ils ont eu)
- Present tense of être + noun, adjective, or adverb
- After multi-syllable adverbs and prepositions (e.g. assez utile, depuis un an)
- Some conjunctions (e.g. mais enfin, puis on)
- After verbs (e.g. Elle prend un livre, Ils arriveront à midi) (very high register)
- After a singular noun
- After et
- In front of an h aspiré
- In front of onze and oui
- After interrogative adverbs and toujours***
- After inversion
|i (free), y (eu FR)||ɨ (roses), ʉ (boot Co, Au)||ɯ, u (où FR)|
|ɪ (bit), ʏ||ɪ̈, ʊ̈ (euphoria)||ʊ (hook)|
|e (bed Au, beauté FR), ø (peu FR)||ɘ, ɵ (goat Ge)||ɤ, o (caught Au, réseau FR)|
|e̞ (play Yo), ø̞||ə (fur), ɵ̞ (je FR)||ɤ̞, o̞ (coat Yo)|
|ɛ (bed Am, bête FR), œ (jeune FR)||ɜ, ɞ||ʌ, ɔ (bore, sort FR)|
|æ (cat)||ɐ (nut)|
|a (stack Yo), ɶ||ä (patte FR, car Au, time So)||ɑ (spa), ɒ (hot)|
FR: French, Co: Cockney, Au: Australian, Ge: Geordie, Yo: Yorkshire, Am: General American, So: Southern American
|IPA vowels chart with audio|
|Paired vowels are: unrounded—rounded|
|This table contains phonetic symbols, which may not display correctly in some browsers. [Help]|
|help • English IPA • help (audio) • image • table • template|