If you’ve ever wondered how to pronounce grenouille, or been stumped by œuf, this French alphabet guide will set you on the path to speaking French fluently.
Let’s start with the good news: ‘l’alphabet’, the French alphabet, is the same as the English alphabet. Both languages share the same letters. However, they are not all pronounced the same way. The French alphabet also has some accents, which changes their pronunciation. French pronunciation can be tricky business.
So learning the French alphabet is an important step to speak French fluently.
In fact, one of the most difficult aspects of learning French is that it is not a phonetic language. For example, the word for frog, grenouille, when spoken sounds like “gren-we”.
This French alphabet pronunciation table will help you learn your ABCs in French.
Introducing the French alphabet
|A||/a/||a||Àà, â, Ææ||avion
|C||/ʃ/, /k/ or /s/||cé||Çç||chien
|E||/ə/||e||Éé, Èè, Êê, Ëë. Œœ||éléphant
|G||/ʒe/ or /g/||gé||grenouille
|H||Mostly silent, or /aʃ/||ache||hotel
Psst: this is one of many different ways to pronounce ‘s’ in French!
|U||/y/||u||Ù ù, Û û, Ü ü||uniforme
|Y||/iɡʁɛk/||i grec||Ÿ ÿ||yoyo
The 7 trickiest French letters to pronounce – and how to master them
We know from experience there are a few extra tricky letters of the French alphabet that can be hard for English speakers to say. So let’s take a look at them:
Pronounce the ‘e’ like “euh”. Think of the sound you would make if you saw something disgusting!
If the letter ‘g’ appears before an ‘e’ or an ‘i’ (like genou), pronounce it softly, like “jeh” – and try stretching out the ‘j’ slightly. It can help to think of the sound at the start of the name Jerry.
But if the letter ‘g’ appears before a ‘u’, ‘o’, ‘a’ or consonant (like grenouille), the sound you need to make is harder. Think about the sound at the start of the name of Jerry’s best friend, Greg.
Pronounce the ‘i’ like “ee”, using a long ‘e’ sound, as in see or bee.
The letter ‘j’ is pronounced like "jhee”. This is similar to the English pronunciation of the letter ‘g’, but with an “ee” sound instead of an “ay” sound at the end.
U is probably the hardest letter to pronounce as it’s not a sound we have in the English language. Try saying the letter ‘u’, but close your mouth, too, as if you’re ‘EE’. The correct ‘e-yooh’ sound should come… fairly naturally.
The French ‘y’ is very different from the English letter.
It is pronounced like "ee-greck” with two distinct sounds. It is pronounced like a two-syllable word, so don’t pause between the two parts.
This digraph is pronounced like ‘oeh’. But you may hear it called e dans l’o, meaning “the e inside the o”. When used in a word, it normally takes the sound of the letter that follows it.
How many vowels in the French alphabet?
French has six vowels, and 20 consonants. Y is considered a vowel, unlike in English, where it is classed as a consonant.
How to pronounce accents in French?
There are several accent marks in French, known as diacritics, although unlike other languages, these accented letters aren't given special names. Instead, they are typically called by the name of the letter followed by the name of the accent.
- é - “e accent aigu”
- è - “e accent grave”
- ê - “e accent circonflexe”
- ë - “e tréma”
French accents don’t always affect pronunciation, but they can change the meaning of a word, so it’s important to always add the correct accent in written French.
- pêcheur (fisherman)
- pécheur (sinner)
Want to know more? Check out our French pronunciation guide which covers the key things you need to know when speaking French.
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