French Accent Marks - Aigu, Grave And More (2023)

Reading and pronouncing French accent marks can be tricky if you’re a beginner French student. But once you learn about these French symbols or diacritics, you’ll never view the English e the same way again!

Take a look at the five kinds of French accent marks and how to use them. Learning their pronunciations will help you become better at French!

French Accents List: The Five French Accent Marks

  • ç – la cédille (the cedilla)
  • é – l’accent aigu (the acute accent)
  • â/ê/î/ô/û – l’accent circonflexe (the circumflex)
  • à/è/ì/ò/ù – l’accent grave (the grave accent)
  • ë/ï/ü – le tréma (the trema)

Accent Grave VS Accent Aigu

The grave accent (`) points to the left and upward, opposite the aigu accent. It makes an ehh sound as in “get” or “bet.” The aigu accent (´) points to the right and upward, only appearing on top of the letter e.

What is the Difference Between e and è

The French pronunciation of the letter e can be confusing. The four main ways to pronounce it are:

  • /e/ or “closed e” as in hey.
  • /ɛ/ or “open e” as in bet.
  • /ə/ or “schwa” as in Tina.
  • Silent e.

But there are also diacritical marks that distinguish instances where the pronunciation is not part of the standard pronunciations for the letter “e”.

È denotes the pronunciation /ɛ/ like “blessed” or “bet.” This pronunciation also means that the “e” is not silent or does not have an “uh” sound. It also comes in the forms of verb conjugation.

How to Use French Accent Marks

The French alphabet also uses twenty-six letters. But the language requires diacritical marks to change the sound of the letter. You’ll see these used often with French greetings and salutations, too.

French people also believe that a missing accent is an error in spelling because these marks distinguish a word from its homonyms.

For example, the word parlé is different from parle. The former is a past participle form, and the latter is a second-person imperative form of parler. It’s also the third-person singular active indicative form.

Some also believe that you should not put accent marks on capital letters because they’re unnecessary. But it’s all up to you.

(Video) French Accents 101: Pronunciation & Accent Marks

How to Type French Accents

French mobile devices and computers use a different keyboard layout, which is the AZERTY. It has many differences from the QWERTY keyboard, like the special characters for accent marks. But you can still use accent marks on your default keyboard.

How Do You Type French Accents on a PC?

There are several keyboard shortcuts for French Accents, depending on your computer type. Some people download a French keyboard and enable the device on their keyboard setting.

But it’s easier to use the international keyboard if you’re switching between French and English. On Windows, press the Start button, then Settings. Head to Time & Language, select Region & Language, and press English. Add the United States keyboard, and you’re done.

Here are the keyboard combinations for each French accent:

  • Cédilla shortcut: Alt + C.
  • L’accent Aigu Shortcut: ‘(single quote) + e.
  • L’accent Circonflexe Shortcut: Shift + 6 + vowel.
  • L’accent Grave Shortcut: Shift + ` (to the left of 1) + vowel.
  • Le Trema Shortcut: Shift + ‘ (single quote) + vowel.

You can also type French accents on your PC is by using four-digit French accent codes. Press the “alt” key, then add the character code.

CharacterCode LowercaseCode Uppercase
çAlt + 0199Alt + 0231
éAlt + 0233Alt + 0201
âAlt + 0226Alt + 0194
êAlt + 0234Alt + 0202
îAlt + 0238Alt + 0206
ôAlt + 0244Alt + 0212
ûAlt + 0251Alt + 0219
àAlt + 0224Alt + 0192
èAlt + 0232Alt + 0200
ìAlt + 0236Alt + 0204
òAlt + 0242Alt + 0210
ùAlt + 0249Alt + 0217
ëAlt + 0235Alt + 0203
ïAlt + 0239Alt + 0207
üAlt + 0252Alt + 0220

You can also find a list of accents in the symbols section. However, this alternative method isn’t convenient for frequent use.

How Do You Type French Accents on a Mac?

Here’s how to type different kinds of accent marks on your Mac:

  • Cédilla shortcut: Option + C
  • L’accent Aigu Shortcut: Command + E + vowel
  • L’accent Circonflexe Shortcut: Option + I then vowel
  • L’accent Grave Shortcut: Option + ` (next to Shift) + vowel.
  • Le Trema Shortcut: Option + U + vowel.

You can also type special characters by holding down the letter key. For example, if you hold the regular letter key “e” for a few seconds, è, é, ê, ë, ē, ė, and ę will appear. But it still depends on your Mac device’s settings.

How to Type French Accent Marks on Mobile

Perhaps the mobile keyboard is the easiest tool for typing French accent marks. You don’t need to go to your keyboard menu to change the settings anymore. Just press and hold the letter you want to type, and the characters will show up.

The Five French Accent Marks

French uses several accent marks to guide pronunciation. These are the most common ones.

1. The Cedilla (La cédille) in French

In French, the cedilla, or the consonant accent, is a little tail under the letter c: ç. It’s used to give the c an s sound instead of a hard k sound—for example:

(Video) french accents aigu, grave, circonflexe

  • garçon (gahr-sohn, meaning boy)
  • français (frahn-say, meaning the French language)

Garçon is the most common word with a cedilla. And while français is another example, France does not need a cedilla.

That’s because the letter c comes before e. English cognates like façade are also an example of a cedilla. You’ll find it in Portuguese and other languages too.

La cédille’s role is to produce the soft s before the vowels e, i, u, o, and a. It can also be used before the consonant y. It also makes the hard k sound in front of u, o, and a.

The French language employs the cedilla in verb tenses to make the pronunciation correct. Verbs with c as their last syllables make the s sound in infinitive forms. For instance, infinitives ending in -cer use the accent mark in the first-person plural (nous) forms–for example:

  • nous prononçons (we pronounce)
  • nous menaçons (we threaten)

They will continue to make this sound in their conjugations and participles. And their original spelling will change accordingly. Reçu is the past participle form of recevoir. Both have the same c sound because of the cedilla.

2. The Acute Accent (L’accent Aigu) in French

The aigu accent symbolpoints to the right and upward like an apostrophe or quotation marks. Only appearing above the letter e, it changes the letter’s pronunciation to ay—for example,

  • médecin (may-deh-sehn, meaning doctor),
  • étouffer, (ay-too-fay, meaning to stifle),
  • marché (mar-shay, meaning market).

The aigua accent gives the same sound in the English word hay. The familiar accent mark only appears above the letter e to produce effects on pronunciation. Without an accent, you can pronounce e in many ways. But é is always pronounced with the same sound.

There’s a problem with following the sound in the word hay. French language speakers will automatically know your native language is English. It’s a common issue among private students taking French language courses.

Say the words hay, way, and say slowly. As you voice out the last parts of the word, your tongue moves because of double vowels.

É is the first consecutive vowel sounds producing the ay diphthong. That means it’s not the ay sound per se, but the eh sound.

One common English word that uses the aigu is cafe. But English speakers usually don’t use the accent mark in modern spelling anymore.

(Video) Correctly Pronounce French Words with Accent Marks (accent aigu, grave, circonflexe, tréma, cédille)

3. The Grave Accent (L’accent grave) in French

The grave accent points to the left and upward or points down from the left. It provides accents for vowels, but it only alters pronunciation when over the letter e.

While, depending on the context, unaccented e‘s may be pronounced several different ways. E‘s with grave accents are always pronounced ehh, like the e in the English word set. Examples:

  • très (treh, meaning very)
  • deuxième (doo-zee-ehm, meaning second, as in second place).

The grave accent may appear at the end of an adjective to mark the feminine. For instance, while complet is the masculine, complète is the feminine form.

L’accent grave also appears on top of the French vowels a and u. Its primary use is to distinguish between two words with different meanings but exact spelling, such as ou and où.

Use it in adverbs and other words ending in es. Remember that the plural indefinite article des should not include a l’accent grave, along with demonstrative and possessive adjectives.

Dès and des are used with a to differentiate between the third-person active indicative form of avoir and à. You can also use it to distinguish between the adverb of place and the feminine article la.

Here’s a tip to remember what the grave accent looks like. People dig graves in the ground, so the accented character should be pointing down.

4. The Circumflex (Le circonflexe) in French

The circonflexe looks like a little pointed hat over vowels. It doesn’t change pronunciation, but it must be included in written French.

  • forêt (for-ay, meaning forest)
  • hôtel (owe-tel, meaning hotel)

The circumflex accent has the same pronunciation as the grave accent when used with the letter e. Some examples include tête, être, and fenêtre. So if it doesn’t change pronunciation, what is its purpose?

First, there are cases where the beloved circonflexe shows the pronunciation of the vowel it’s over. Â becomes ah, and ê turns into eh.

Another reason behind circumflex’s importance is in the word forêt or forest. Both French and English words have the same root. But the French word eventually had a silent s, which led to spelling changes. The circumflex is like a “tribute” to the missing letter in question, s.

(Video) 5 minutes French: E with accents aigu & grave

It’s like the use of contractions in the English letter. We type don’t instead of do not to remove the extra letters.

You can also use this accent mark for words that sound the same, like sur and sûr. Sur is a preposition meaning on. It can also be an adjective that refers to sour. Sûr is defined as certain. Le circonflexe is also present in inflected form like sûre.

5. The Trema (Le tréma) in French

The tréma looks like two dots above a letter. It’s usually placed above the second of two consecutive vowels when both vowels are to be pronounced separately.

  • Jamaïque (jam-eh-eek, meaning Jamaica)
  • coïncidence (ko-ehn-see-dahns, meaning coincidence)

The trema accent looks like the umlaut in Germanic languages, but they do not represent the same thing. The accent mark simply teaches you to pronounce the consecutive vowel sounds, like in noël.

The feminine form of adjectives ending in gu is gue. The trema accent reminds you to pronounce the last u sound.

More Examples

Accent Cedilla Examples

  • Bicyclette
  • Commencer, commncé
  • Concevoir
  • Effacer
  • Fiancé
  • Besacançon
  • Façon
  • Hameçon
  • Glaçon
  • Merci
  • Provençal

Accent Acute Examples

  • attaché
  • Allé
  • Canapé
  • cliché
  • Entrée
  • Fiancé
  • Idé
  • Kafé
  • Komité
  • Passé
  • Toupée
  • Touché

Accent Grave Examples

  • Città
  • Première
  • Scène
  • Gérer
  • Lever
  • Mosè
  • Répéter
  • Donner
  • Marcher
  • Virtù

Accent Circumflex Examples

  • Ancêtre
  • Août
  • Dégoûtant
  • forêt
  • Gâteau
  • Rôtir
  • L’hôpital
  • Vêtement
  • l’hôte
  • prêtre

Accent Trema Examples

  • Ambiguïté
  • Capharnaüm
  • Caraïbes
  • Coïncidence
  • Jamaïque
  • Michaël
  • Naïve
  • Noël
  • mosaïque

The Spelling Reform

Everyone was surprised when the French education minister announced a change in French language rules. They only applied the 1990 language reform by the Académie française in the fall of 2016.

The reform has the goal of simplifying some aspects of the French language. Ognon became oignon, and nénuphar became nénufar. Some unnecessary dashes were removed, while some were added.

There are also changes regarding the French accent marks. Événement (event) is now spelled as évènement since that is the proper pronunciation. Another accent rule is the suppressing of the circumflex accent on the i and u.

Many were against this reform, especially textbook publishers. That’s why nothing might change. And these spelling changes will never be compulsory anyway.

The Bottomline on French Accent Marks

The French use the same alphabet as English, but one difference is the use of French accent marks. These symbols are an essential component in spelling which French language learners should know.

Note that accent marks are a matter of spelling since they don’t always influence pronunciation. If your goal is to be an excellent French speaker, there’s no need to master them yet. And for more helpful info like this, check out our breakdown of French numbers.

(Video) French accents - part 1 (French Essentials Lesson 17)


What are the 5 French accent marks? ›

The 5 accents in French writing are:
  • l'accent aigu (acute accent) – é
  • l'accent grave (grave accent) – à, è, ù
  • la cédille (cedilla) – ç
  • l'accent circonflexe (circumflex) – â, ê, î, ô, û
  • l'accent tréma (trema) – ë, ï, ü

How do you remember accent aigu vs grave? ›

  1. An accent aigu ( ) is only used on an e (é) and produces the sound ay, as in “day.” It may also replace an s from old French. ...
  2. An accent grave (`) may be used on an à or ù where it causes no sound change, or on an è, producing the sound of eh as in the e in “get.”

What are some examples of French words with accent aigu? ›

The accent aigu {ˊ} is the most commonly used accent mark in French. It appears in words such as éducation, allégresse, and café and is only used with the vowel {e}.

What are the 2 dots above â letter called in French? ›

Accent tréma, or the dieresis looks like two little dots above the letter and is used with e, i, and u (ë/ï/ü). And its only function is to indicate that the letter in the French word should be pronounced distinctly from the vowel that precedes it - for example, Noël (Christmas).

What is an example of accent grave? ›

Accent grave: è

In the feminine forms of adjectives and nouns, like première (first) and complète (complete) In the ending used for ordinal numbers, like deuxième (second) and centième (hundredth) Some short words have an accent grave to clarify meaning, like ou means "or" but où means "where"

What is the difference between é and è? ›

“é” always sounds like \e\ (“ey” in “hey.”) The rising mark on top is called “un accent aigu.” → “è” always sounds like \ɛ\ (“e” in “bet.”) The descending mark on top is called “un accent grave.”

How do you pronounce È and É? ›

French. The letter é (pronounced /e/) contrasts with è (which is pronounced /ɛ/) and is widely used in French.

Which one is the most common French accent? ›

L'accent Aigu

The l'accent aigu is the most common French accent mark. And, it only appears over the letter “e”. The purpose of this accent is to change the pronunciation. While “e” without an accent can be pronounced in several ways, with the acute accent it's pronounced “eh”.

What are the 4 accents used with French vowels? ›

French accents
  • L'accent aigu (é)
  • L'accent grave (à, è, ù)
  • L'accent circonflexe or "chapeau" (â, ê, î, ô, û)
  • La cédille (ç)
  • Le tréma (ë, ï, ü)

What are the symbols in French? ›

Common French Punctuation Marks and Symbols
.un pointperiod, full stop, dot
&une esperluette, un "et commercial," un "et anglais"ampersand
*un astérisqueasterisk
#un dièse* (Fr), un carré (Can)pound sign, number sign
$un signe du dollar, un dollardollar sign
29 more rows
Feb 18, 2020

What is é called in French? ›

In French, E is the only letter that can be modified with l'accent aigu, the acute accent. With the accent, it may be called either e accent aigu or simply é, pronounced [e] (more or less like "ay"). As indicated by the latter, the acute accent changes the vowel's pronunciation to [e]. Par exemple… é sound.

What is the easiest French accent? ›

Compared with Parisians, Southern French people speak French at a slower rate, which can make it seem easy to understand.

What are 10 French words? ›

Learn Some Common French Words
  • Bonjour = Hello, Good morning.
  • Au revoir = Goodbye.
  • Oui = Yes.
  • Non = No.
  • Merci = Thank you.
  • Merci beaucoup = Thank you very much.
  • Fille = Girl.
  • Garçon = Boy.

What is the grave accent used for? ›

The grave accent, though rare in English words, sometimes appears in poetry and song lyrics to indicate that a usually silent vowel is pronounced to fit the rhythm or meter. Most often, it is applied to a word that ends with -ed.

What is â â called? ›

Â, â (a-circumflex) is a letter of the Inari Sami, Skolt Sami, Romanian, and Vietnamese alphabets. This letter also appears in French, Friulian, Frisian, Portuguese, Turkish, Walloon, and Welsh languages as a variant of the letter "a".

What is the â accent called? ›

the grave accent. â the circumflex accent. ü the diaeresis, or trema, or umlaut.

What is the soft C mark in French? ›

Cedilla: ç

The little hook ¸ added under the letter c in French is a diacritical mark known as a cedilla, une cédille. The letter c with the hook ç is called c cédille. The sole purpose of the cedilla is to change a hard c, pronounced [k], to a soft c, pronounced [s].

How do you make a French accent grave? ›

To type accent grave (à, è, etc), type ` (to the left of 1) then the vowel. Accent aigu (é), type ' (single quote) then e. Cédille (ç), type ' then c. Circonflexe (ê), type ^ (shift + 6) then e.

How do you enter a grave accent? ›

CTRL+grave accent (the key to the left of the number “1” on the top row of keys) puts a grave accent over the next vowel typed. The “6” key becomes a circumflex accent when shifted, so CTRL+SHIFT+6 plus either “a”, “e”, “i”, “o”, or “u” generates “â”, “ê”, “î”, “ô”, and “û”, respectively.

What does the accent grave key look like? ›

The grave accent (`) is under the tilde (~) key on your keyboard, as shown in Figure 8.

What is the thing above é called? ›

The little mark above the letter in é is what's known as an acute accent. This mark suggests a modified pronunciation of the letter. Though we're focusing on é for this article, acute accents can appear above any other vowel, so long as they're necessary.

How is ê pronounced? ›

Diacritics are not considered to be distinct letters of the French alphabet. In French, ê changes the pronunciation of e from /ə/ to /ɛ/. It is used instead of "è" for words that used to be written "es".

What is the symbol on E called? ›

The acute is used on é. It is known as accent aigu, in contrast to the accent grave which is the accent sloped the other way. It distinguishes é [e] from è [ɛ], ê [ɛ], and e [ə].

What does the E sound like? ›

Ë is a phonetic symbol also used in the transcription of Abruzzese dialects and in the Province of Ascoli Piceno (the Ascolano dialect). It is called "mute E" and sounds like a hummed é.

What is the hardest French accent? ›

#1 Parisian French

Of the accents of France, the Paris accent is perhaps the hardest to nail down. And that's because Parisian French is considered “standard French” – or French without an accent.

Which is harder French or English? ›

Is English Harder than French To Learn? French is not as hard to learn as it is considered by most of the people, especially when compared to English. In fact, it is a language that's much easier to achieve fluency in than you'd have ever expected. English is inconsistent when it comes to pronunciation.

Which state speaks the most French? ›

Today, French is the second most spoken language (after English) in the states of Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire. In Louisiana, it is tied with Spanish for second most spoken if Louisiana French and all creoles such as Haitian are included.
French language in the United States.
United States French
ISO 639-3
6 more rows

What are the 7 vowels in French? ›

In French, the vowels are a, e, i, o, u and y . Sometimes they can be written with marks above them called accents. They do not always make the same sound as in English. When combined with other vowels or consonants, they can then make a completely different sound.

What are the 3 consonants you should pronounce at the end of â word in French? ›

The letters B, C, F, K, L, Q, and R are usually pronounced at the end of a word. Tip: Since B, K, and Q are rare as final consonants, some people find it helpful to use the word CaReFuL to remember the most common of the usually pronounced final consonants.

What is Ô in French with accent? ›

“ê” is pronounced like an English “eh” as in “get” – the same as if it was “è” with a grave accent. “ô” is pronounced roughly like an English “oh” as in “boat” or “close”. It's the same sound found in the French word au.

What is the difference between grave and aigu? ›

Accent Grave VS Accent Aigu

The grave accent (`) points to the left and upward, opposite the aigu accent. It makes an ehh sound as in “get” or “bet.” The aigu accent (´) points to the right and upward, only appearing on top of the letter e.

What are the different accent marks? ›

The most common accents are the acute (é), grave (è), circumflex (â, î or ô), tilde (ñ), umlaut and dieresis (ü or ï – the same symbol is used for two different purposes), and cedilla (ç). Accent marks (also referred to as diacritics or diacriticals) usually appear above a character.

What are the 8 national symbols of France? ›

The symbols of the French Republic explained to children
  • The French flag.
  • “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”
  • La Marseillaise by Rouget de Lisle.
  • Marianne.
  • The seal.
  • The rooster.
  • The lictor's fasces.

What does È called? ›

On the letter e, the grave accent is a pronunciation marker, indicating that the pronunciation is [ɛ]. In French, this sound is most commonly found in closed syllables. When spelling out loud, è is called e accent grave.

Why is French so hard for English speakers? ›

Many find French hard to learn because of the complex grammar and linguistic nuances that don't exist in English, especially for those who have never studied another European language specifically Romance languages like Spanish or Portuguese. Spoken French can also be challenging!

Which accent is hardest to imitate? ›

The British Accent

The Great British accent proved to be the most difficult of all the accents to imitate – along with the regional Yorkshire and Cockney pronunciations, in particular.

Is French harder to speak than Spanish? ›

Babbel actually ranked the easiest languages for English speakers to learn though, and technically, Spanish is higher on that list than French (Spanish came in third, versus eighth for French). This is mostly thanks to Spanish's easier pronunciation.

What are the 100 most common words in French? ›

100 most frequently used French words
  • le (det.) the; (pron.) him, her, it, them.
  • de (det.) some, any; (prep.) of, from.
  • un (det.) a, an; (adj., pron.) one.
  • à (prep.) to, at, in.
  • être (verb) to be; (noun [m. ]) being.
  • et (conj.) and.
  • en (prep.) in, by; (adv., pron.)
  • avoir (verb) to have; (noun [m. ]) assets.

What is the prettiest French word? ›

15 Most Beautiful Words in French
  • Douceur.
  • Feuilleter.
  • Onirique.
  • Flâner.
  • Chuchoter.
  • Rêvasser.
  • Éphémère.
  • Émerveiller.

What is the most common French phrase? ›

Common French Greetings You Already Know
  • #1 Bonjour ! – Hello! ( the standard greeting in French) (bon jour)
  • #2 Bonsoir ! – Good evening! ( replaces bonjour in the evening) ...
  • #3 Salut ! – Hi! ( a more informal greeting) ...
  • #4 Enchanté(e) ! – Nice to meet you! ( a standard expression when meeting someone for the first time)

How many French accents are there? ›

There are actually as many as 28 different accents or dialects for the many different regions of France. They include the Alsatian, Lorrain, Champenois, Picard, Normand, Breton, Tourangeau, Orléanais, Berrichon, Paris, Burgundy, Marseille, Corsica, Lyon, Gascony and Languedoc dialects.

What is the most common French accent? ›

L'accent Aigu

The l'accent aigu is the most common French accent mark. And, it only appears over the letter “e”. The purpose of this accent is to change the pronunciation. While “e” without an accent can be pronounced in several ways, with the acute accent it's pronounced “eh”.

How do î type é on my keyboard? ›

Unlike iOS, Android doesn't come preloaded with support for accented characters. However, there's an app for that—several of them, actually. Simply head to your app store and search for a “smart keyboard.” Choose whichever you like best, install it, then type accents, acute or otherwise, whenever you need.

What is the accent called é? ›

The acute is used on é. It is known as accent aigu, in contrast to the accent grave which is the accent sloped the other way. It distinguishes é [e] from è [ɛ], ê [ɛ], and e [ə]. Unlike in other Romance languages, the accent marks do not imply stress in French.

What is the best French accent? ›

The Parisienne accent is considered the standard and it can sound very elegant. The Ch'ti accent sounds like people who want a good laugh, perhaps because they live in a damp, chilly part of the country.

When I try to type slash I get é? ›

It is possible that the keyboard layout has been switched by accident by using the key sequence to rotate the keyboard layout. Windows remembers the keyboard layout setting per application and you may have changed the keyboard layout by accident via a keyboard shortcut.

Why is my slash and É? ›

Given this situation, based on my research, please make sure you have the correct input language activated in Windows, you can go to Start menu> Control Panel > Region and Language> Switch to Keyboard and languages tab> Click on Change keyboard> Under installed services, remove other services and keep English US.

What is the E with 2 dots? ›

The diaeresis (the two dots) signifies that the underlying “e” is pronounced as /ɛ/ (as “e” in “bet”, i.e. the open e), no matter what comes around it, and is used in groups of vowels that would otherwise be pronounced differently.


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