A Guide to French - The French alphabet

What's the French alphabet like?

The French alphabet has 26 letters.
You may well have to spell out your name and perhaps your address in French. Here is the alphabet and how to pronounce it

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What's significant about the French alphabet?

  • Vowels

    Interestingly, there are six vowels:  a, e, i, o, u, y

    The most challenging vowel to pronounce is probably u as this sound doesn’t exist in English. Try saying  menu, déjà vu, bus

    It’s also very common for French vowels to be combined to create specific sounds. Here are a few that are worth remembering:
     au, eau as in  restaurant, gâteau
     ou as in  rouge, red, beaucoup, a lot
     ai as in  aimer, to like, français, French
     oi as in  croissant, toilettes
     eu and œu as in  bleu, blue, œufs, eggs

  • Nasal sounds

    French is well-known for its nasal sounds and they don't have any equivalent in English.
    Want to give it a go? Try this sentence, which sums up all of the nasal sounds:
     un bon vin blanc - a nice white wine

  • Consonants

    Unlike in English, h is generally silent, e.g
     hôtel, hôpital, habiter, to live

    You might be familiar with the r sound, which comes from the throat:
     adresse, dormir, to sleep

    You may have also come across ll in the unusual  ouille sound, as in  grenouille, frog and  ratatouille

    And a typical aspect of the language is that not all letters are pronounced at the end of a word, e.g.
     restaurant, Paris, dessert, canard, duck

  • Accents and cedilla

    What are they all about? There are four accents:
    acute (é), grave (è), circumflex (ê) and trema (ë)

    The accents on the vowel e indicate different sounds:
     é as in  cinéma, été, summer
     è, ê, ë as in  crème, fête, Noël, Christmas

    Accents are often used in writing to differentiate meaning, even when the pronunciation is the same:
     a / à - has / at
     ou / où - or / where
     la / là - the (fem. form)/ there
     sur / sûr - on / sure

    The cedilla, ç, is used before a, o, u and sounds the same as ‘s’, e.g.  français, French, leçon, lesson, un reçu, a receipt

  • Email and website conventions

    When giving an email or website address the conventions are:
     @ arobase
     . point, dot
     / barre oblique, forward slash
     - tiret, hyphen

Facts about French

Facts about French

10 things to know about the French language

French key phrases

French key phrases

Get started with 20 audio phrases

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