Beginning French Pronunciation

French, like English, can be very difficult in terms of pronunciation, due to intricacies like silent letters, multiple sounds for a single letter, and endless exceptions to whatever rules you find. This site contains numerous lessons which explain the rules and exceptions of French pronunciation in great detail, which is fine for advanced students but can be very confusing for beginners. Therefore, this lesson is an attempt to simplify French pronunciation, to make it easier for you to get started, even if you don’t know how every letter combination is pronounced in every situation. While at some point, you will need to study more in-depth lessons on pronunciation, for the time being, this simplified pronunciation chart can help you get a good idea about how to pronounce new words.

Whenever possible, I have provided English words which use the same spelling. Failing that, I used French terms used in English, but if you don’t know how to say these à la française, you will need to look them up in order to get the correct pronunciation. Failing either of these, I used an alternate spelling – these words are in [brackets] and the letters which make the relevant sound are in bold. When there is no real English equivalent, the nearest sound, if any, is explained in (parentheses) – for these letters and letter combinations, you should look really at the in-depth lessons. The LKL column indicates how I write that sound when spelling out pronunciation in other lessons. The letters and letter combinations are linked to detailed lessons, while the examples are hyperlinked to sound files in .wav format.

Letter(s) LKL English Sound Examples
A a father quatre, un ami
AI ay pain le laitfrais
AU o taupe chaudmauvais
B b buy bonbonsbas
C k can cafésec
s cell cerisenièce
Ç s façade ça vacaleçon
CH sh champagne chaudanchois
D d dad la datemardi
EEU eu de trop le, un feu
É ay fiancé étégénial
È, Ê, EI eh bête noire exprès, une tête
EAU o eau de toilette beaueau
F f fat faimneuf
G g gag gant, une bague
zh mirage il gèleaubergine
H hour hiver, un hôpital
(always silent)
I, Ï, Î ee naïve dix, un lit
J zh déjà vu le jambondéjeuner
K k kit un kiosque, le ski
(rare in French)
L l like fleursmille
M m mom Madamecomment
(n) (nasal vowel) le parfumembouteillage
N n no neufnoir
(n) (nasal vowel) un, le pain
O o solo le dosrose
OI wa foie gras boiretrois
OU u soup douzenous
P p pie un père, la soupe
PH f phone une pharmacietéléphoner
Q k pique quinze, la banque
R r rouge, une ceinture
(similar to Spanish J, Arabic KH)
S s so le sucre, un poisson
SC sk scold une escale
s science les sciences
T t toe la tarte, la tête
TH t [tea] le thé, le théâtre
TI s [silly] attention
U u [food]* tu, une jupe
UE weh suede* saluer, la Suisse
UI wee cuisine* une nuitfruit
*Approximation – see lesson on U
V v vat vert, un avion
W v un wagon
(rare in French)
X ks express exprimertaxe
gz exit le xérès, un exemplaire
Y y yes le yaourt, les yeux
Z z zone la zone, la zizanie

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