French Pronunciation: An A to Z


The best way to learn french is to master french pronunciation from the start. A good understanding of the vowels and consonants and their many different sounds in combination, is essential.

The more you can learn to speak french, the more meaningful (and fun!) your holiday in France will be.

Here’s a full list, from A to Z. We’ve tried to explain in ‘words’ what they sound like, but nothing beats listening to it and then practising it yourself, to help in your understanding of french pronunciation (watching french movies, or listening to french TV is a great idea).

You’ll notice that it’s not all ‘foreign’ sounds – there are a number of letters which are similar, if not the same as, the equivalent in english. Vowels in French Pronunciation

Click on the blue button(s) below to listen as you read, the french pronunciation examples are in red font.

  • a, à, â: like “a” in about [chat, ma, la, papillon, Avignon, balades]
  • e: like “oo” in “hood” but sharper [petit]
  • é: like “a” in say, but sharper [café]
  • è, ê: like “e” in met [crème, même, fête]
  • i, î: like “ee” in meet [il, mille, Nîmes, Paris]
  • o, o, ô, au, eau: like “o” in “no” but shorter [métro, couteau, bateau, pomme, dordogne]
  • u, ù: like ew in pewter, but tighter [tu, pure, autobus]

Other vowel combinations in french pronunciation include:

  • ais: like “e” in “bed” [jamais, français]
  • au, eau like “o” in “more” [eau, manteau, couteau]
  • en/an: nasal; kind of like “ahng”, but without the hard “g” at the end [en, an, plan, maintenant]
  • eu: like “u” in “furl”; [bleu, feu]
  • ?: more or less like “eu”, slightly more “open” [?uf]
  • er/ez: like “ay” in “say”, at the end of a word [marcher, manger, marchez, mangez]
  • oi: almost like “why” [coin, moins]
  • ou: like “oo” in “mood” [moutard, couper]
  • on: nasal; like “ong” in “long”, but without the hard “g” at the end [marchons, pardon]
  • oui: like “ee” in “seek” [oui]
  • ui: like “ee” in “seek”, but with a “yoo” type of pronunciation at the beginning [pluis, lui]
  • un: nasal; like “ung” in “sung”, but without the hard “g” at the end [un]

Consonants in French Pronunciation

  • b: like “b” in “bell” [bain]
  • c: soft like “c” in “cedar”, or hard as in care [merci, carnet]
  • d: like “d” in “do” [déjeuner]
  • f: like “f” in “fin” [finir]
  • g: before a, u or o – like “s” in “measure”; otherwise – like “g” in “get” [gentille; gants]
  • h: silent [heures]
  • j: like “s” in “measure” [bonjour]
  • k: like “k” in “kilometer” [kilomètre]
  • l: like “l” in “listen” [le, la, les]
  • m: like “m” in “monday” [maintenant]
  • n: like “n” in “never” (usually silent at the end of a word) [ne, napoleon]
  • p: like “p” in “pale” [poire]
  • qu: like “ca” in “call” [quatre]
  • r: if in the middle of the word, gutteral sound, silent at the end [merci, prener]
  • s: like “s” in “seven”, or like “s” in “phase” (generally silent at the end of a word) [silence, pas, repas]
  • t: like “t” in “ten” [tu, tel, taille]
  • v: like “v” in “very” [vous]
  • w: like “w” in “weather” [wagon]
  • y: like “y” in “yes” [yves]
  • x: like the english “x” [xavier]
  • z: like “z” in “zoo” [zoo]

Other consonant combinations include:

  • ch: like “sh” in “shell” [champignon, chemin, charme]
  • gn: like “ni” in “onion” [grignoter, baignoire]
  • ll: like “y” in “yes” [famille, papillon]
  • ph: like “f” in “fun” [pharmacie]
  • pt: like “t” in ten; [sept]
  • th: like “t” in “top” [thon, thème]

So, as far as french pronounciation goes, this list is just a start. The best thing to do now is to listen and practice, practice, practice. Bonne chance!

Learn to Speak French

Learn more about how to pronounce french here, or see more useful french phrases.

You might also be interested in this online french course, which will really help you improve your conversational french, whether you’re a beginner or more advanced.

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