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Some vowels[edit]


The A section is the only one that remains a difficulty.

  • A:
    • 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/AIS:
    • 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
  • E:
    • 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.
  • EU:
    • 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.


E Muet[edit]

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


Oral vowels of French.
i (free), y (eu FR) ɨ (roses), ʉ (boot Co, Au) ɯ, u ( 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
Front Near-​front Central Near-​back Back
Paired vowels are: unroundedrounded
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