French Accents: The Easiest Way To Differentiate Them

Like I said before, French accents may seem confusing when you can’t remember exactly in which direction the acute accent known as accent aigu or the grave accent known as accent grave should go.

Let’s find out the basics

What Are French Accents Used For?

We use the French accents for the following reasons:

1. To Change the sound of a letter

For example, an acute accent on the e will make it é (like in a day) and a grave accent on the e will turn the same e to è ( ai like in fair).

2. To differentiate 2 words from each other

Let’s go by example. I like giving examples because I believe it is the easiest way to illustrate something and to pass a message a cross.


Putting a grave accent on the U in Où (where) will clearly help us differentiate it from the Ou ( or) without a grave accent

French Accents: The Acute And the Grave Accent?

Like I said before, French accents may seem confusing when you can’t remember exactly in which direction the acute accent known as accent aigu or the grave accent known as grave should go.

The difference is in the sound and the direction of the slanting line on top of the letter.

I know what you are thinking,

You want to say that since the acute accent can be found only on the letter e and it gives you the “ay” sound like in a day, and the grave accent the “ai” sound like in “fair” there should be any confusion, right?

But how do you identify the symbols? This is the secret …

The acute accent oblique line goes from your bottom left to your top right. You need to follow the direction if not you won’t get it right. That is it! So the 2 examples above will read Aytay and Baybay.

Meanwhile, for the grave accent,

To get the slant right, you need to start from your top left to your bottom right. It’s that simple. The acute accent can be found on many letters like a, e, and u.

When it is on “a” it changes the a ( has) to à (at/to).

Ex: Il a de l’argent = He has money

On the letter “e” it changes the “e” to “è” (as seen above)

Ex: Père, Mère

When you see it on the letter u; it is for precision purposes compared to other similar words:

Ex: Ou (or) >> L’un ou l’autre = either of the two

Où (where) >> Où vas-tu? = Where are you going?

The French Circumflex accent

The circumflex is one of the most commons French accents. The good thing about it is that it is not confusing at all with its nice hat shape ^.

The Pronunciation of words with ^

Out of the 3 French accents, the circumflex accent is the only 1 that you can find on almost all vowels. You must be wondering why I am saying almost, right. I said so because the 5 vowels above are not the only French vowels we have in French.

Most of the time the circumflex accent makes the final sound longer.

Ex: la fête (la faitt) = The party, l’âne (lahnn) = donkey, etc

Cedilla Is One Of The Lower French Accents

As one of the lower French accents, cedilla (¸ ) is an accent in the shape of an incomplete 5 you will find underneath the letter C only and before the letter a, o, and u only as well to make the “S” sound. Just see this letter as the letter “S”.

According to Wikipedia,

Ç or ç (C-cedilla) is a Latin script letter, used in the Albanian, Azerbaijani, Manx, Tatar, Turkish, Turkmen, Kurdish, Zazaki, and Romance alphabets. Romance languages that use this letter include Catalan, French, Friulian, Ligurian, Occitan, and Portuguese as a variant of the letter C.


In this French lesson video, which is above I have explained clearly how you can quickly master the French most confusing accents to get you speaking fast.

The French accents’ pronunciation is not hard and it is not easy either. It all depends on how you go about it. The takeaway from this is to practice it often.

I there is a way you were able to solve the confusion in the French accent, please share it in the comment below.

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