French vowel

The letter O has two different pronunciations in French. The explanation and equivalents provided here are based on the closest sounds that exist in American English, which are sometimes not very close at all. Phonetic symbols are provided in [brackets].

1. [o] is called the closed o sound.* Phonetic symbol: [o]. It’s similar to English’s long o sound as in "go," but without the diphthong to a "w" sound at the end. O is always pronounced this way when it

  • is the final sound in a word
  • is followed by a z sound
  • has a circumflex
Par exemple…
closed o sound
trop   too much/many
rose   pink
allô   hello (when answering the phone)

  The letter combinations AU and EAU are also pronounced like a closed o.

2. [ɔ] is called the open o sound.* Phonetic symbol: [ɔ]. It’s similar to the short u sound as in the English word "son." When O is followed by any consonant sound other than [z], it’s an open o sound.

Par exemple…
open o sound
sonner   to ring
un ordinateur   computer
un voleur   thief

  *Lesson: Open / closed vowels and open / closed syllables

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French pronunciation

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1 Response

  1. David Guthrie 26 November 2017 / 15:15

    It is similar to the short u in English, but with a slight rounding of the lips. I had to relearn my short O sound because I was saying without the rounding, and I could tell it didn’t quite sound right. I practiced it by saying cup and cope and trying to round my lips a little in between the two

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