Acute Accent: é

Accent 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].

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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