French Accents: Circumflex, Aigu accent, Trema, Grave accent, Cedilla


In French, accents are really important, they can influence the meaning and the pronunciation of a word.


For example:

‘ou’ means ‘or’
‘où’ means ‘where’.



The acute accent (l’accent aigu) ‘é’


It is only used on ‘e’ and changes its pronunciation to a more high-pitched sound.



un éléphant
an elephant

une médaille
a medal

J’ai regardé la télévision.
I watched TV.

un mélange
a mix

le café
the coffee



The grave accent (l’accent grave) è, à, ù


When it’s used on ‘e’, it changes its pronunciation to a deeper sound.
When the grave accent is used on ‘a’ or ‘u’, it doesn’t change its pronunciation, however, it sometimes changes the meaning of the word if you forget the accent.



J’achète du pain.
I buy some bread.

Il préfère ta voiture.
He prefers your car.

a: has
à: to

ou: or
où: where



The circumflex accent (l’accent circonflexe) â, ê, î, ô, û


It is an indication that in old French, an ‘s’ was used instead of an accent. For example, ‘a hospital’ in French used to be ‘un hospital’, the ‘s’ has been removed and an accent added on the ‘o’; nowadays, you spell it ‘un hôpital’.



un gâteau
a cake

une fête
a party

une île
an island

the hotel

Tu es sûr?
Are you sure?



The cedilla (la cédille) ‘ç’


It changes the sound of the letter ‘c’ from ‘k’ to ‘s’. ‘ç’ cannot be used in front of ‘e’ or ‘i’.

Un garçon.
A boy

Nous sommes français.
We are French.

Ça va?
How are you doing?



The diaeresis (le tréma) ë, ï, rarely on ü


Vowels with a diaeresis are to be pronounced separately from the vowel preceding them.

Joyeux Noël !
Merry Christmas !

un aïeul
an ancestor




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