French pronunciation and phonetics
- 1.How to pronounce the French vowels, consonants and diphthongs ?
- 1.1.French vowels charts
- 1.2.French consonants charts
- 1.3.Diphthongs charts
- 2.Pronunciation rules of the French language
- 2.1.Vowels with no accent
- 2.2.Vowels with accent
- 2.3.Combined vowels
- 3.Phonetics of consonants
- 4.The linking in French
- 5.The cedilla in French
How to pronounce the French vowels, consonants and diphthongs ?
In French, unlike other languages, we don't take in account all the accent in our alphabet.
For alphabetical classification, the accents are under their normal letters ("é" counted as "e" or "æ" and "œ" ligatures are the equivalents of "ae" and "oe".)
The accents are arranged in this order: acute, grave, circumflex and umlaut.
The vowels are 6 letters and the consonants are 20 letters: Here's is an overview of their pronunciation and phonetics in the alphabetical order
French vowels charts
|1||A / a||/ɑ/|
|5||E / e||/ə/|
|9||I / i||/i/|
|15||O / o||/o/|
|21||U / u||/y/|
|25||Y / y||/igʁɛk/|
French consonants charts
|2||B / b||/be/|
|3||C / c||/se/|
|4||D / d||/de/|
|6||F / f||/ɛf/|
|7||G / g||/ʒe/|
|8||H / h||/aʃ/|
|10||J / j||/ʒi/|
|11||K / k||/kɑ/|
|12||L / l||/ɛl/|
|13||M / m||/ɛm/|
|14||N / n||/ɛn/|
|16||P / p||/pe/|
|17||Q / q||/ky/|
|18||R / r||/ɛʁ/|
|19||S / s||/ɛs/|
|20||T / t||/te/|
|22||V / v||/ve/|
|23||W / w||/dublə ve/|
|24||X / x||/iks/|
|26||Z / z||/zɛd/|
The French alphabet has many diphthongs. Diphthongs are vowels that were created by the combination of two vowel sounds with the same syllable but can also be a combination of a vowel and a consonant. They are very commonly used.
Among them you can find:
|ch||/ʃ/, /k/||chocolat, archéologue|
|ss||/s/ between two voyels||chasse|
|ai, aî, ei||/ɛ/||maître,|
|em, en||/ɑ̃/||enveloppe, emballage|
|ein, im, in, în||/ɛ̃/||rein, imconcevable, incroyable, vînmes|
|aim, ain||/ɛ̃/||faim, main|
|am, an||/ɑ̃/||chambre, chanter|
/ɛ.i/ in front of consonants
/ɛj/ in front of vowels
- "ge" is used in front a, o, u
- "gu" is used in front of e, i, y
- "ein", "in" and "en", 'am' and "ain" are used in front of all consonants except m, b, p
- "aim" is used in front of m, b, p
Pronunciation rules of the French language
Vowels with no accent
We already know what are the French vowels sound like. They may be not accented, accented or even combined with other vowels. Here is a table with pronunciations for unaccented vowels alone:
|a||/a/||chat, sac, bagage, matin|
|e||/ə/||genou, cheval, retard|
|er, et||/e/||manger, acheter, et|
|i, y||/i/||lit, physique|
Vowels with accent
French grammar can take 3 kind of accents: grave, acute, circumflex and they usually change the pronunciation of the words. But the only vowel for which these three accents have a noticeable effect on its pronunciation is the e.
|é||/e/||enchanté, énormement, étonné|
|è||/ɛ/||très, problème, frère|
|ê||/ɛ/ (more open)||être, fête, même|
Vowels can also merge to form vowel combinations. There are only a few possible combinations in French but also as soon as a vowel precedes an n or an m in the same syllable, this vowel becomes nasal.
We already studied some of them in the list of diphthongs above but check under for more pronunciations:
|ui/oui||/ɥ/||nuit, suis, puits|
|on||/õ/||maison, bouton, marron|
Phonetics of consonants
In general, all consonants at the end of a word are silent and not spoken.
The consonant H is silent when used in a word and has no pronunciation
The consonant Y is pronounced /i/ when used as a vowel in a word and /j/ when used as a semi-vowel in a word
When two vowels are separated by "ll" the pronunciation is /j/.
The linking in French
The pronunciation of a word in French varies depending on the words that precede or follow it. The pronunciation of consonants that are normally not pronounced before a following vowel is called linking (French: la liaison). Liaison links the two words
- with the sound /z/ (ex: des_amis)
- with the sound /n/ (ex: un_américain)
- sometimes with the sound /t/ (ex: comment_allez vous ?)
The result of liaison is a regular alternation of consonant and a vowel sound.
The cedilla in French
The cedilla is a graphic sign that is placed under the c to indicate that it must pronounce /s/.
It is necessary before a, o, u and without the cedilla in front, it is pronounced /k/.
It is useless to put a cedilla before an e or i:
- c before these vowels is always pronounced /s/.
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