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Beginning French Pronunciation

The basics of French pronunciation

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French, like English, can be very difficult in terms of pronunciation, due to intricacies like silent letters, multiple sounds for a single letter, and endless exceptions to whatever rules you find. This site contains numerous lessons which explain the rules and exceptions of French pronunciation in great detail, which is fine for advanced students but can be very confusing for beginners. Therefore, this lesson is an attempt to simplify French pronunciation, to make it easier for you to get started, even if you don't know how every letter combination is pronounced in every situation. While at some point, you will need to study more in-depth lessons on pronunciation, for the time being, this simplified pronunciation chart can help you get a good idea about how to pronounce new words.

Whenever possible, I have provided English words which use the same spelling. Failing that, I used French terms used in English, but if you don't know how to say these à la française, you will need to look them up in order to get the correct pronunciation. Failing either of these, I used an alternate spelling - these words are in [brackets] and the letters which make the relevant sound are in bold. When there is no real English equivalent, the nearest sound, if any, is explained in (parentheses) - for these letters and letter combinations, you should look really at the in-depth lessons. The LKL column indicates how I write that sound when spelling out pronunciation in other lessons. The letters and letter combinations are linked to detailed lessons, while the examples are hyperlinked to sound files in .wav format.

Letter(s) LKL English Sound Examples
A a father quatre, un ami
AI ay pain le lait, frais
AU o taupe chaud, mauvais
 
B b buy bonbons, bas
 
C k can café, sec
s cell cerise, nièce
Ç s façade ça va, caleçon
CH sh champagne chaud, anchois
 
D d dad la date, mardi
 
E, EU eu de trop le, un feu
É ay fiancé été, génial
È, Ê, EI eh bête noire exprès, une tête
EAU o eau de toilette beau, eau
 
F f fat faim, neuf
 
G g gag gant, une bague
zh mirage il gèle, aubergine
 
H hour  hiver, un hôpital
(always silent)
 
I, Ï, Î ee naïve dix, un lit
 
J zh déjà vu le jambon, déjeuner
 
K k kit  un kiosque, le ski
(rare in French)
 
L l like fleurs, mille
 
M m mom Madame, comment
(n) (nasal vowel) le parfum, embouteillage
 
N n no neuf, noir
(n) (nasal vowel) un, le pain
 
O o solo le dos, rose
OI wa foie gras boire, trois
OU u soup douze, nous
 
P p pie un père, la soupe
PH f phone une pharmacie, téléphoner
 
Q k pique quinze, la banque
 
R r rouge, une ceinture
(similar to Spanish J, Arabic KH)
 
S s so le sucre, un poisson
SC sk scold une escale
s science les sciences
 
T t toe la tarte, la tête
TH t [tea] le thé, le théâtre
TI s [silly] attention
 
U u [food]* tu, une jupe
UE weh suede* saluer, la Suisse
UI wee cuisine* une nuit, fruit
*Approximation - see lesson on U
 
V v vat vert, un avion
 
W v un wagon
(rare in French)
 
X ks  express exprimer, taxe
gz exit le xérès, un exemplaire
 
Y y yes le yaourt, les yeux
 
Z z zone la zone, la zizanie
Related Video
French Dialogues: Eating Out
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