Want to know how to say the French alphabet a-z?
Oh, you will.
That’s what this guide is about. You’ll learn the phonetics, the pronunciations, accents, and even a French alphabet song.
Introduction to the French Alphabet
So, how many letters are in the French alphabet?
The French alphabet contains the same 26 letters as the English alphabet. It has the same 5 vowels and 21 consonants. However, many of the letters are pronounced very differently in French than in English. The French also have five accents that are used to distinguish words from one another and to change the pronunciation of certain letters. For French spelling, accents are just as important as letters.
Learning the alphabet is critical to being able to pronounce French words correctly. Just like in English, you piece together the letters to make sounds that compose words. The stronger your knowledge of the French alphabet, the better you will be at forming French words and phrases.
Similarities and Differences Between French and English
Before you jump into it, it’s good to know what’s easy and hard about the French alphabet. What you already know. And, what you need to know.
What is easy about the French alphabet?
- The letters look exactly the same as English letters. (There are no characters to memorize or new letters to learn.)
- Many letters sound somewhat similar to their English counterparts. Q, U, X
- An entire group of letters makes the “AY” sound: B, C, D, G, P, T, V
- A few letters sound exactly the same as the English letters: F, L, M, N, O, S
- Many letters have very simple and easy-to memorize pronunciations.
What is difficult about the French alphabet?
- The letter R is difficult to pronounce because it requires air pushed from the back of the throat. This sound doesn’t exist in English.
- The letters G and J are often confused by English speakers because they are switched in French.
- G sounds more like J.
- J sounds more like G.
- The letter I confuses English speakers because it sounds like the English letter E.
- Accents can change the pronunciation and meaning of letters and words. English speakers have to learn French accents to fully understand the French alphabet.
French Alphabet A-Z with Pronunciation
Now, let’s get to the alphabet.
So, what are the letters of the French alphabet? And what are the phonetics (sounds)? Take a look below.
Also, listen to this Free French audio lesson by FrenchPod101.com – click here ( a popular French learning program ) and learn a bit about the French writing system. At 6:54, you’ll hear the teachers reciting the alphabet.
Chart with sound
Want the French alphabet song? Go ahead and play this song and re-read the letters above once more.
French Accent Marks
The French alphabet also has accents. Little accent marks you’ll see above letters like “à” or “û.” These marks change the pronunciation of the letter.
There are five different French accent marks that can be added to specific letters to change the pronunciation or meaning of a word. Take a look below.
|Accent circonflexe||â, ê, î, ô, û||
No real effect on pronunciation
|Accent grave||à, è, ù||
No real effect on pronunciation
|Accent tréma||ë, ï, ü||
Separates two vowel sounds
|Cédille||ç||A soft “s” sound|
1) The accent aigu points diagonally upward, and it can only be placed on the letter E.
It makes the E pronounced at the end of a word instead of being silent. For example, danse is pronounced DAHNS. When an accent aigu is added, dansé is now pronounced DAHNS-AY. When an accent aigu is added to a verb, it often indicates the past tense of the verb.
2) The accent circonflexe makes a little rooftop on any vowel. It doesn’t change the pronunciation of the word.
- â, ê, î, ô, û
3) The accent grave points diagonally downward on the letters A, E, and U.
- à, è, ù
It doesn’t have an effect on pronunciation, but it does often change the meaning of a word. For example, ou means “or.” Où means “where.” This accent makes a big difference in meaning. Forgetting an accent circonflexe can cause confusion to a French reader.
4) The accent tréma separates to vowels so they are distinctly pronounced.
- ë, ï, ü
For example, in English, we have the name Joel that is pronounced like JOLE. The verbs meld together as one. In French, they have the holiday, Noël. The verbs are distinctly pronounced as NO-EL, not NOLE. This is because of the accent tréma.
5) The cédille accent is only used on the letter C.
It changes a hard C to a soft C that makes a sound like an S. Garçon is pronounced GAR-SOHN not GAR-CON.
French Letters & French Pronunciation Rules
You learned the phonetics of the French alphabet up above.
But, there are other exceptions.
So, here are some extra rules on how to pronounce the French alphabet.
It is important to note that the French have many pronunciation rules when it comes to letters. Here are just a few:
- The Letter “Y” in the French alphabet acts just like the English Y. It’s a consonant if the first letter of a word and a vowel (i or ee sound) if following a consonant.
- Consonants from the English word “CAREFUL” (C, R, F, and L) are usually pronounced at the end of words. All other consonants are usually silent. The word for egg demonstrates this idea. Un oeuf (an egg) is pronounced UHN-UHF. The F is pronounced. The plural des oeufs (some eggs) is pronounced DAY-ZUH. The S is silent.
- If a consonant is followed by the letter E at the end of the word, it becomes a pronounced sound instead of remaining silent. Intelligent is the masculine form of the adjective. The T is silent (IHN-TELL-EE-JAHN). However, to make the word feminine, the letter E is added: intelligente. In this case, the T is pronounced (IHN-TELL-EE-JAHNT).French speakers can tell by this pronunciation if the speaker is referring to a male or a female.
- When the letter S precedes a vowel at the start of another word, it forms a liaison. This means that the S will be pronounced like the English Z. Les ananas means “the pineapples.” It is pronounced LAY-ZAHN-AHN-NAH. The S makes the Z sound before the A.
Conclusion & Review
Now that you’ve learned the French alphabet a-z, it’s good to review with example words. So, take a look below.
- une école
- Meaning: a school
- Pronunciation: OON-AY-COLE
- un homme
- Meaning: a man
- Pronunciation: UHN OHM
- une femme
- Meaning: a woman
- Pronunciation: OON-FAHM
- la maison
- Meaning: the house
- Pronunciation: LAH MAY-ZOHN
- les enfants
- Meaning: the children
- Pronunciation: LAY-ZOHN-FAHN
- Meaning: shy
- Pronunciation: TEE-MEED
- Meaning: nice
- Pronunciation: SIM-PAH-TEEK
Hope you enjoyed this guide.
– The Main Junkie