Cedilla: ç

French cedillaLa cédille

The little hook ¸ added under the letter c in French is a diacritical mark known as a cedilla, une cédille. The letter c with the hook ç is called c cédille.

The sole purpose of the cedilla is to change a hard c, pronounced [k], to a soft c, pronounced [s]. In French, the pronunciation of the letter c is determined by the letter that immediately follows it, as explained in the "hard vs soft" section of the vowels lesson. So when c is followed by a hard vowel but needs a soft pronunciation, add the cedilla and voilà ! the c is soft.

On the other hand, since c is already soft in front of e, i, and y, it cannot and must not take a cedilla there – even if a related word has one.

 Never. No exceptions.

Par exemple…

Soft vowels   Hard vowels
ceci, cela   ça
comme ci   comme ça
commencer, commencé*   commençant
commercial   commerçant
concevoir   conçu
décevant, décevoir   déçu
douceâtre   douçâtre
effacer, effacé*   effaçable
fiancé   fiançailles
France   français
Francis, Francine   François
glace   glaçon
lancer, lancez*   lançant, lançons
Provence   provençal
recevoir   reçois, reçu

* These are spelling change verbs.

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