Accents

Les accents

While French has the same alphabet as English, some of the letters have little decorations that can make them look and sound very different. Even though English loves to borrows words from French and other languages, the accents are optional: you can write "naïve" or "naive," it makes no difference. In French, however, accents are essential: they’re there for a reason, so you must include them when writing.*

Accent Found on Where it’s used and what it means Par exemple…
´ aigu
acute
e Often at the beginning of words that started with "s" in Latin une école
un état
school
state
^ circonflexe
circumflex
a, e, i, o, u Often means "s" followed that letter in Latin
May distinguish between two words or change pronunciation
un hôpital
sur vs sûr
hospital
on / sure
` grave
grave
a, e, u Often distinguishes between two words
May indicate pronunciation
la vs
très
the / there
very
¨ tréma
dieresis
e, i Consecutive vowels must be pronounced separately le canoë
le maïs
canoe
corn
¸ cédille
cedilla
c Only in front of a, o, and u; changes hard c (k sound) into soft c (s sound) la leçon
ça
lesson
that

When spelling out loud, there are two different ways to indicate accents: by naming them as you go or by mentioning them at the end.

très

  1. t – r – e accent grave – s
  2. t – r – e – s, avec accent grave sur le e

É is known as e accent aigu, but may also be called simply élearn more.

There’s also a special character created by two vowels that join together: œ ligature.

*The only exception is on capital letters, where accents are optional, but even that is debatable – and we’ll debate it in a future lesson.

  Yes, you can type accents! Check out these intructions for any computer.

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French accents


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