Pronunciation Guide

Single Vowels

Pronunciation: like "a" in "father"
Examples: grand ("great"), sac ("pack"), caporal ("corporal"), cafard ("roach")
Similar sounds: "â" (but a little more open ended)

Pronunciation: like "e" in "met"
Examples: chef ("leader"), repos ("rest"), grenade ("grenade")
Similar sounds: "oeu" (but a little more open ended)

Pronunciation: like "ee" in "meet"
Examples: ciblot ("civi"), pipe ("pipe"), pinard ("wine"), abri ("shelter")

First Pronunciation: "o" like in "for"
Examples: homme ("man"), mort ("dead"), botte ("boot"), boche ("hun")
Second Pronunciation: "o" like in "go"
Examples: boyau ("communication trench"), bombe ("bomb"), obus ("shell") Similar sounds: "au", "eau", "ô"

Pronunciation: no English equivalent; round lips as if to say 'oo' (as in 'loop') but instead say 'ee' (as in 'tree')
Examples: poilu ("hairy"), obus ("shell"), jus ("juice"), fusil ("rifle")
Similar sounds: "â" (but a little more open ended)

Pronunciation: "y" like in "yes"
Examples: boyau, pays ("country")
Similar sounds: "ll"

In most cases, the final "e" in a word is not pronounced, such as in the following: boche ("hun"), tente ("tent"), flotte ("water").

When followed by the consonants "l, t, m, n, p, r," the "e" is pronounced like "u" as in "fun" (but it is cut off short with a quick close). Examples of this are: lettre ("letter"), mettre ("to put"), Joffre.

Accentuated Vowels

Almost every vowel in the French language (except "y") can be accentuated. Some accents change the sound of the vowel, others don't. Here first are the accents shown in conjunction with the letter "e":

è (grave accent)
é (sharp accent)
ê (circumflex accent)
ë (diaeresis)

The accents which change the vowel sound are as follows:

Pronunciation: "a" like in "bay" (without the "y" at the end)
Examples: réseaux ("wire entanglements"), armée ("army"), fadé ("piquish")

é and ê
Pronunciation: "e" like in "met"
Examples: frère ("brother"), cartouchières ("cartidge boxes"), tête ("head")

Pronunciation: makes the syllable sound as if there were two syllables
Examples : naïf ("naïve") is pronounced [nay-if]

Pronunciation: "a" like in "father"
Examples: mâcher ("to chew"), pâte ("pasta")

Pronunciation: "o" like in "coat" (but it is cut off short with a quick close)
Examples: côte ("hill"), contrôle (control)

Accents which do not change the vowel sound include: à, ë î ù, ü.

Vowel and Consonant Combinations

Pronunciation: like "ou" in "you" or "oo" in "loop"
Examples: couteau ("knife"), trou ("hole"), cartouches ("cartridges")

Pronunciation: like "wa" in "water" but more open ended
Examples: poilu ("hairy"), croix ("cross"), boîte ("can" or "box")

au and eau*
Pronunciation: like "o" in "rope"
Examples: eau ("water"), créneau ("loop-hole"), boyau ("communication trench")

*Note: The plural forms of these combinations when they are used as a suffix (-aux, -eaux) is pronounced the same, with the "x" remaining silent.

Pronunciation: normally like "" in "date"
Examples: maison ("house"), j'ai ("I have"), claie ("wattle"), travail ("work or "job")

eu and oeu
Pronunciation: like "u" in " puff" Examples: feu ("[gun]fire" or "light"), bleu ("blue"), artilleur ("artillerist")

Pronunciation: like "we" in "weed"*
Examples: oui ("yes"), cuir ("leather"), cuistot ("cooky"), crapouillot ("mortar")

er and et First Pronunciation: like "a" in "fate" (e.g. a verb in the infinitive form)
Examples: boucher ("butcher"), reposer ("to rest"), et ("and")
Second Pronunciation: like "e" in "met"
Examples: bleuet ("rookie"), merde ("shit"), Camembert ("Camembert")

Pronunciation: like "o" in "rope" but more nasally*
Examples: bon ("good"), non ("no"), bidon ("canteen"), front ("front")

*Note that the "n" is silent but has the result of making the "o" sound more nasally.

in, ain and ein
Pronunciation: like "a" in "hat"
Examples: matin ("morning"), pain ("bread"), Seine (Seine)


Most consonants in French are pronounced in fairly the same way as in English, however, there are some exceptions. Only those consonants whose pronunciation differs from English will be reviewed here.

As a general rule, the following consonants are not pronounced when located at the end of a word unless followed by an "e":

d, n, p, r, s, t, x
Examples: pinard ("wine"), bleuet ("rookie"), jus ("juice" or "coffee")

However, it should be noted that though they are not pronounced, they can change the sound of the preceding vowels. For instance, in "bidon" the "o" is pronounced more nasally. Conversely, the following consonants are pronounced when placed at the end of a word:

c, f, k, l, q, t, z
Examples: chef ("leader" or "commader"), caporal ("corporal"), riz ("rice")

The other consonants like b, j, g, v, w -- though rarely or never located at the end of a word -- are pronounced when so placed. As with any language, there are lots of exceptions to the above rules. This is particularly true with numbers, personal names and place-names.

Pronunciation: The French "r" sound is fairly different from the English one. In English, "r" is soft and round, with the tongue place forward in the mouth when pronouncing. In contrary, in French, "r" is guttural with the tongue placed further back and on the floor of the mouth when pronouncing.

Pronunciation: pronouned singly like the English "g" and making a sound like "s" in "pleasure" when appearing in a word
Examples : jardin ("garden"), jour ("day"), jus ("juice" or "coffee")

Pronunciation: depends on the subsequent character. If followed by "a", "u", or "o", the "g" is pronounced like the "g" in "garden". If followed by "e" or "i", it is pronounced like the second "g" in "language".
Examples: 1) guerre ("war"), gare ("station"); 2) fromage or fromgi ("cheese")

Pronunciation: not pronounced when located at the beginning of a word.
Examples : haricot ("bean"), homme ("man"), hâche (axe)

Pronunciation: same as "s" in English. Note though, in general, when "s" is located at the end of a word it is not pronounced.
Examples: trous ("holes"), maisons ("homes"), debris ("debris"

Consonant Combinations:

Pronunciation: like "sh" in "flush"
Examples: champ ("field"), chef ("leader" or "commander"), bidoche ("meat")

Pronunciation: no English equivalent. It is a combination of an "n" and "y" sound. Press the tongue against the roof of the mouth directly behind the teeth.
Examples: ligne ("line"), sign ("sign"), gniôle ("booze")

Pronunciation: like "y" in "yet"
Examples: bleusailles ("blueys"), crapouillot ("mortar"), artilleur ("artillerist")

French articles:

Le [luh]
La [lah]
Les [lay]

Of, Some:
De [duh]
Des [day]

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