Circumflex: â, ê, î, ô, û

French circumflexThe circumflex, aka "little hat," is the only French accent that may be found on each of the five vowels. In any given word, the circumflex may serve one or more purposes.

   

   

Consonants for Beginners

Pronunciation of French consonantsMore than half of French consonants are very similar to their English countparts, but a few are completely different. Here's a quick overview to help you get started learning French.

   

Contractions

French contractionsContractions occur when two words are combined into one, sometimes with a distinctly different spelling. In English, contractions like "won't" are optional and indicate informality. In French, however, contractions are required, regardless of the register you're speaking or writing in.

   

D

French pronunciationThe letter D is pronounced similarly to D in English, except that it is dental rather than alveolar.

Dieresis: ë, ï

French dieresisThe dieresis, le tréma, is a French accent found only on two vowels: ë and ï. The dieresis indicates that the accented vowel must be pronounced distinctly from the vowel that precedes it.

   

E

French pronunciationThe letter e has several 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.

E instable

French silent eIn many words the letter e is potentially silent, a characteristic which has three French names: e caduc, e instable, and e muet. Though e muet is the most common term, e instable is the most accurate.

   

   

Elision

French elisionAn elision is a type of contraction that occurs when two words are combined: one or more letters are dropped and replaced with an apostrophe. In French, written elisions are required, regardless of the register you're speaking or writing in.

   

EN

French pronunciationThe letter combination en has four possible pronunciations, depending on the letters that precede or follow it.

Enchaînement

French enchaînementWhenever a word ending in a consonant sound is followed by a vowel or h muet, that consonant sound is transferred onto the next word. This is called enchaînement and it's one of the aspects of French pronunciation that sometimes makes it difficult to determine where one word ends and the next begins.