This tutorial presents an overview of the rules of European/metropolitan French pronunciation, focusing on the vowels, consonants, stress, and intonation patterns that are different from American English. For more practice with comprehension and pronunciation, please check the listening and repetition exercises.
For more French learning through authentic videos, I recommend Yabla French and FluentU. For audiobooks and lessons of modern French, try French Today. I've recommended some French books at Amazon, and Interlinear books are great for learning French by reading literal translations in English. French Listening and Authentic French provide audio and video clips of real, spoken French in various accents with transcripts so you can listen and read along, plus some exercises to test your comprehension. Need even more French? Try the French courses at Udemy or consider purchasing French Language Tutorial as an e-book to support ielanguages.com.
Buy French Language Tutorial as an e-book! French Language Tutorial includes more than 200 pages of grammar and vocabulary topics, sample sentences, informal ways of speaking, cultural information about France, and an overview of French pronunciation. This e-book also comes with 200+ mp3s (more than FIVE HOURS) recorded by three native speakers and FREE lifetime updates. Download the first 10 pages of French Language Tutorial (including the table of contents). NEW! The companion e-book, Informal and Spoken French, is also now available! Buy the two French e-books together at a discounted price!
For more French learning through authentic videos, I recommend Yabla French and FluentU. For audiobooks and lessons of modern French, try French Today. I've recommended some French books at Amazon, and Interlinear books are great for learning French by reading literal translations in English. Need even more French? Try the French courses at Udemy
Vowels in French are pure vowels, i.e. they are not diphthongs as in American English. Americans pronounce a and e with an extra yuh sound at the end, and o and u with an extra wuh sound at the end. You must not do this in French. The distinction between long and short vowels exists in French, but a few American short vowels do not exist ([ɪ] as in did and [ʊ] as in put) so make sure to never pronounce these vowels when speaking (European) French.
Vowels in Contrast
|Long Vowels||Short Vowels||Similar English|
|[a]||[ə]||not - nut|
|[e]||[ɛ]||wait - wet|
|[o]||[ɔ]||coat - caught|
Words in Contrast
|[a] - [ə]||rapporter||reporter|
|[e] - [ə]||des mains||demain|
|[e] - [ɛ]||pré||près|
|[o] - [ɔ]||paume||pomme|
On the other hand, French has three front rounded vowels that do not exist in English, which may take a while to get used to since English only has back rounded vowels. However, they are the rounded counterpart of vowels that do exist in English, so you simply need to round your lips when pronouncing these vowels.
Vowels in Contrast
Many English speakers tend to say [u] instead of [y] and [ə] instead of [ø] or [œ]. Personally, I still find it hard to hear the difference between [ø] and [œ] in fast speech, but I can distinguish them if they are isolated vowels.
Words in Contrast
|[u] - [y]||sous||su|
|[ə] - [ø]||ce||ceux|
|[ø] - [œ]||jeûne||jeune|
Here is a review of the vowels in French, with phonetic spellings for American English speakers (forget the diphthongs though!), sample words in French and the general spelling for these vowels in French orthography.
|IPA||Phonetic spelling||Sample words||General spellings|
|[i]||ee||vie, midi, lit, riz||i, y|
|[y]||ee rounded||rue, jus, tissu, usine||u|
|[e]||ay||blé, nez, cahier, pied||é, et, final er and ez|
|[ø]||ay rounded||jeu, yeux, queue, bleu||eu|
|[ɛ]||eh||lait, aile, balai, reine||e, è, ê, ai, ei, ais|
|[œ]||eh rounded||sœur, œuf, fleur, beurre||œu, eu|
|[a]||ah||chat, ami, papa, salade||a, à, â|
|[ɑ]||ah longer||bas, âne, grâce, château||a, â|
|[u]||oo||loup, cou, caillou, outil||ou|
|[o]||oh||eau, dos, escargot, hôtel||o, ô|
|[ɔ]||aw||sol, pomme, cloche, horloge||o|
|[ə]||uh||fenêtre, genou, cheval, cerise||e|
[ɑ] is disappearing in modern French, being replaced by [a]. Vowels that do not exist in English are marked in blue.
Other rules to remember about pure vowels in French:
If you enjoy the tutorials, then please consider buying French, Informal French, Italian, Spanish, German, Swedish, or Dutch Language Tutorials as a PDF e-book with free mp3s and free lifetime updates.Buy French Tutorial
Please consider sending a donation of any amount to help support ielanguages.com. Thank you!
FluentU offers authentic videos in French, Spanish, German, English, Chinese and Japanese. Learn from captions and translations and enjoy access to ALL languages!
Learn Spanish, French, German, Italian, Mandarin Chinese and English with authentic videos by Yabla that include subtitles and translations.
Learn to read languages with interlinear bilingual books that include the original language and an English translation below in a smaller font.
Hundreds of free and paid online language learning video courses at Udemy. By native speakers and experts, from Arabic to Zulu.