Acute Accent: é

French acute accentAccent aigu

In French, E is the only letter that can be modified with l’accent aigu, the acute accent. With the accent, it may be called either e accent aigu or simply é, pronounced [e] (more or less like "ay"). As indicated by the latter, the acute accent changes the vowel’s pronunciation to [e].

French sound files Par exemple…
é sound
un été   summer
une école   school
un défi   challenge
raffiné   refined

 Note that there are several other spellings which create the same pronunciation – see lesson on E.

Spelling notes

At the beginning of a word, é is usually a sort of linguistic marker, indicating that the Old French or Latin word started with es or s. (Incidentally, the English equivalent often starts with s or es as well.)

Par exemple…

été   originally spelled esté   summer
établir   from Latin stabilire   establish

 É is an open vowel, which means it can only be found in open syllables. It never precedes the letter x or any doubled consonant, and it’s never found in the final syllable of a word followed by any consonant other than s. (With the exception of apocopes like dém, short for démission.)

Accent on grammar

1) The past participle of all er verbs ends in é.

Par exemple…

manger   j’ai mangé
aller   je suis allé

2) É features in the é_er to è_er type of stem-changing verb: it changes to è (e accent grave) in the affected conjugations.

Par exemple…

gérer   je gère
répéter   je répète

3) Traditionally, é was added to the end of regular –er verbs in inversion with je:

parler   parlé-je
marcher   marché-je

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French accents

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