Only three French vowels can take the grave accent: à, è, and ù, and the purpose of the accent depends on the letter in question.
E accent grave
On the letter e, the grave accent is a pronunciation marker, indicating that the pronunciation is [ɛ]. In French, this sound is most commonly found in closed syllables. When spelling out loud, è is called e accent grave.
|une espèce||type, species|
|une pièce||room, coin, play|
Note that there are other spellings which create the same e sound – see lesson on E.
Accent on grammar
1) È features in two types of stem-changing verbs:
- é_er to è_er verbs: é (e accent aigu) changes to è in the affected conjugations.
- e_er to è_er verbs: the first e changes to è in the affected conjugations.
4) Masculine adjectives and nouns that end in –er change to –ère in the feminine:
|un caissier||une caissière|
A accent grave and U accent grave
On the letters a and u, the grave accent has nothing to do with pronunciation; instead, it usually serves to distinguish between words that would otherwise be spelled identically.
Ù is found in just one word:
|ou||or (conjunction)||où||where (interrogative adverb)
where, when (relative pronoun)
À is found at the end of about a dozen short words:
|a||third person singular of avoir||à||to, at in (preposition)|
|la||the (definite article)
her, it (direct object)
A few of these words don’t have an unaccented counterpart:
|holà||hey, hello, hang on|
- Letters: A | E | U
- Open vs closed syllables
- Introduction to accents
- How to type French accents
- Stem-changing verbs
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