Master the French alphabet

Learn how to say your ABCs in French

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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

Letter Phonic Name Accented letters Example
A /a/ a Àà, â, Ææ avion
(plane)
B /be/ bateau
(boat)
C /ʃ/, /k/ or /s/ Çç chien
(dog)

cœur
(heart)

or

cerise
(cherry)
D /de/ dauphin
(dolphin)
E /ə/ e Éé, Èè, Êê, Ëë. Œœ éléphant
(elephant)
F /ɛf/ effe fleur
(flower)
G /ʒe/ or /g/ grenouille
(frog)

or

genou
(knee)
H Mostly silent, or /aʃ/ ache hotel
(hotel)

or

hibou
(owl)
I /i/ i Îî, Ïï iglou
(Igloo)
J /ʒi/ ji jus
(juice)
K /ka/ ka kangourou
(kangaroo)
L /ɛl/ elle lapin
(rabbit)
M /ɛm/ emme maison
(house)
N /ɛn/ enne nid
(nest)
O /o/ o Ôô orange
(orange)
P /pe/ pomme
(apple)
Q /ky/ qu quatre
(four)
R /ɛʁ/ erre raisin
(grape)
S /ɛs/ esse souris
(mouse)

Psst: this is one of many different ways to pronounce ‘s’ in French!
T /te/ tortue
(turtle)
U /y/ u Ù ù, Û û, Ü ü uniforme
(uniform)
V /ve/ vache
(cow)
W /dubləve/ double vé wagon
(wagon)
X /iks/ ixe xylophone
(xylophone)
Y /iɡʁɛk/ i grec Ÿ ÿ yoyo
(yoyo)
Z /zɛd/ zèbre
(zebra)

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:

1. E

Pronounce the ‘e’ like “euh”. Think of the sound you would make if you saw something disgusting!

2. G

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.

3. I

Pronounce the ‘i’ like “ee”, using a long ‘e’ sound, as in see or bee.

4. J

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.

Give it a try

At Busuu, we give you plenty of chances to practise your pronunciation, and build your speaking skills gradually.

5. U

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.

6. Y

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.

7. Œ

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.

For example:

  • 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.

Go beyond the letters with Busuu’s French course

French pronunciation is a world of its own, and the only way to truly master it is through practice! Get started with Busuu and learn French online, with courses from beginner through to advanced. With everything from basic French vocabulary to grammar, we’ve got you covered.