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?
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
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
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:
. point, dot
/ barre oblique, forward slash
- tiret, hyphen