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While French has the same alphabet as English, some French letters have little decorations that can make them look and sound very different. English loves to borrows words from French and other languages, but 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…|
|e||Often at the beginning of words that started with "s" in Latin||une école
|a, e, i, o, u||Often means "s" followed that letter in Latin
May distinguish between two words or change pronunciation
sur vs sûr
on / sure
|a, e, u||Often distinguishes between two words
May indicate pronunciation
|la vs là
|the / there
|e, i||Consecutive vowels must be pronounced separately||le canoë
|c||Only in front of a, o, and u; changes hard c (k sound) into soft c (s sound)||la leçon
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.
Par exemple : très
- t – r – e accent grave – s
- t – r – e – s, avec accent grave sur le e
É is known as e accent aigu, but may also be called simply é – learn 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.