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

 Related lessons

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French accents
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2 Responses

  1. Tim Koschmann 19 December 2018 / 8:09

    Laura, I’m very confused. Is this what you meant to say:

    “É is an open vowel, which means it can only be found in open syllables.” ?