French Pronunciation

How to pronounce French vowels and consonants

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French Pronunciation / La prononciation

For a more in-depth look at French pronunciation, try to the French Phonetics tutorial.

French Vowels
IPA Phonetic spelling Sample words General spellings
[i] ee vie, midi, lit, riz i, y
[y] ee rounded rue, jus, tissu, usine u
[e] ay blé, nez, cahier, pied é, et, final er and ez
[ø] ay rounded jeu, yeux, queue, bleu eu
[ɛ] eh lait, aile, balai, reine e, è, ê, ai, ei, ais
[œ] eh rounded sœur, œuf, fleur, beurre œu, eu
[a] ah chat, ami, papa, salade a, à, â
[ɑ] ah longer bas, âne, grâce, château a, â
[u] oo loup, cou, caillou, outil ou
[o] oh eau, dos, escargot, hôtel o, ô
[ɔ] aw sol, pomme, cloche, horloge o
[ə] uh fenêtre, genou, cheval, cerise e

[ɑ] is disappearing in modern French, being replaced by [a]. Vowels that do not exist in English are marked in blue.


French semi-vowels
IPA Phonetic spelling Sample words General spelling
[w] w fois, oui, Louis oi, ou
[ɥ] ew-ee lui, suisse ui
[j] yuh oreille, Mireille ill, y

French nasal vowels
IPA Phonetic spelling Sample words General spelling
[] awn gant, banc, dent en, em, an, am, aon, aen
[ɛ̃] ahn pain, vin, linge in, im, yn, ym, ain, aim, ein, eim, un, um,
en, eng, oin, oing, oint, ien, yen, éen
[œ̃] uhn brun, lundi, parfum un
[õ] ohn rond, ongle, front on, om

[œ̃] is being replaced with [ɛ̃] in modern French

In words beginning with in-, a nasal is only used if the next letter is a consonant.  Otherwise, the in- prefix is pronounce een before a vowel.

French Consonants
ex + vowel egz examen, exercice
ex + consonant eks exceptionnel, expression
ch (Latin origin) sh architecte, archives
ch (Greek origin) k orchestre, archéologie
ti + vowel (except é) see démocratie, nation
c + e, i, y; or ç s cent, ceinture, maçon
c + a, o, u k caillou, car, cube
g + e, i, y zh genou, gingembre
g + a, o, u g gomme, ganglion
th t maths, thème, thym
j zh jambe, jus, jeune
qu, final q k que, quoi, grecque
h silent haricot, herbe, hasard
vowel + s + vowel z rose, falaise, casino
x + vowel z six ans, beaux arts
final x s six, dix, soixante (these 3 only!)

There are a lot of silent letters in French, and you usually do not pronounce the final consonant, unless that final consonant is C, R, F or L (except verbs that end in -r).

Liaison: French slurs most words together in a sentence, so if a word ends in a consonant that is not pronounced and the next word starts with a vowel or silent h, slur the two together as if it were one word. S and x are pronounced as z; d as t; and f as v in these liaisons. Liaison is always made in the following cases:

  • after a determiner: un ami, des amis
  • before or after a pronoun: vous avez, je les ai
  • after a preceding adjective: bon ami, petits enfants
  • after one syllable prepositions: en avion, dans un livre
  • after some one-syllable adverbs (très, plus, bien)
  • after est

It is optional after pas, trop fort, and the forms of être, but it is never made after et.

Silent e: Sometimes the e is dropped in words and phrases, shortening the syllables and slurring more words.

  • rapid(e)ment, lent(e)ment, sauv(e)tage /ʀapidmɑ̃/ /ɑ̃tmɑ̃/ /sovtaʒ/
  • sous l(e) bureau, chez l(e) docteur /sul byʀo/ /ʃel dɔktoʀ/
  • il y a d(e)... , pas d(e)... , plus d(e)... /yad/ /pad/ / plyd/
  • je n(e), de n(e) /ʒən/ /dən/
  • j(e) te, c(e) que /ʃt/ /skə/ (note the change of the pronunciation of the j as well)

Stress and Intonation: Stress on syllables is not as heavily pronounced as in English and it generally falls on the last syllable of the word. Intonation usually only rises for yes/no questions, and all other times, it goes down at the end of the sentence.


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