Circumflex: â, ê, î, ô, û

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

   

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.

   

   

Dieresis: ë, ï, ü

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

   

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.

   

Euphonic Adjectives

French euphonic adjectivesFrench grammar is sometimes trumped by pronunciation, as in the case of euphonic adjectives. Because French does not like the hiatus created when a word ending with a vowel precedes a word that begins with a vowel or mute h, a few adjectives change their spelling—and thus their pronunciation—for purely euphonic reasons.

   

Fractions

French fractions
In both French and English, there's a lot of overlap between fractions and ordinals: the vast majority of these two types of numbers share the same word. In English, they are identical from "third" on up, while in French they're the same starting with cinquième.

   

   

   

H muet

French h muetThe French H muet is not just silent, but essentially non-existent: words that begin with H muet act as if they begin with a vowel.