U

French vowel

The letter U has two pronunciations in French, and they’re tough ones. This explanation is based on the closest sounds that exist in American English, which are not very close at all. The phonetic symbols are provided in [brackets].

1. [y] is a sound which simply does not exist in English. The closest sound is oo as in "food" but in French, the lips protrude and must be tightly pursed. To make the French U sound, pucker your lips while leaving a small hole, and keep them rounded while saying "ee." Accents make no difference to the pronunciation of U.

u sound
ultime final, ultimate
tu you
la musique music
le sucre sugar
dû past participle of devoir (to have to)

2. [ɥ] – the letter U is pronounced kind of like an English w (but with tightly pursed lips) whenever it’s followed by a vowel. This sound is called a semi-vowel.

huit eight
une tuile curved roof tile
la pluie rain
la Suède Sweden

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French pronunciation

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