Orthographic Accent

Definition: There are five different kinds of accent marks used in written French. They are:

acute accent
(accent aigu)
é only éléphant: elephant
grave accent
(accent grave)
è, à, ù

fièvre: fever, là, there
où: where

(accent circonflexe)

â, ê, î,
ô, û

gâteau: cake, être: to be, île: island,
chômage: unemployment,
dû: past participle of devoir

ë, ï, ü, ÿ Noël: Christmas, maïs: corn, aigüe: acute(fem)
ç only français: French
  • Note: As of the spelling reform of 1990, the diaresis indicating gu is not a digraph on words finishing in gu is now placed on the u in standard (AKA "acadmie franaise" French): aige and not aigu, cige and not cigu, ambige and not ambigu (acute(fem), conium, ambiguous). Since this reform is relatively recent and not known in vulgar surrounding, both spellings can be used interchangeably.

  • Note: The letter is only used in very rare words, most old town names: L'Ha-Les-Roses (Paris surburb). Pronounced like .
Acute Accent:

The acute accent is the most common accent used in written French. It is only used with the letter e and is always pronounced e.
One use of the acute accent is to form the past participle of regular -er verbs.



aimer, to love

aimé, loved

regarder, to watch

regardé, watched

Examples in French:
  • table --> stable (for horses)
  • cole --> scole --> school
  • il tudie --> il studie --> he studies
And to combine what you already know about the accent aigu, here is one last example:
  • trangl (from trangler) --> strangl --> strangled
Grave Accent:

and :
In the case of the letters and , the grave accent is used to graphically distinguish one word from another.



a (3º Pers. sing of avoir , to have)

à (preposition, to, at, et al.)

la (definite article for feminine nouns)

( there )

ou (conjunction, or )

( where )

Unlike and , is not used to distinguish words from one another. The used for pronunciation. In careful speech, an unaccented e is pronounced euh, and in rapid speech is sometimes not pronounced at all. The is pronounced like the letter e in pet.

Tonic Accent:

In English, you stress certain syllables more than others. However in French, you pronounce each syllable evenly.

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