French accents
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Les accents

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.*

AccentFound onWhere it’s used and what it meansPar exemple…
eOften at the beginning of words that started with "s" in Latinune école
un état
a, e, i, o, uOften means "s" followed that letter in Latin
May distinguish between two words or change pronunciation
un hôpital
sur vs sûr
on / sure
a, e, uOften distinguishes between two words
May indicate pronunciation
la vs
the / there
e, iConsecutive vowels must be pronounced separatelyle canoë
le maïs
cOnly 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

  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 instructions for any computer / tablet / phone.

 Related lessons

Learn Spanish En español

Learn Italian In italiano

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French accents

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