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54 terms

French Vowel Sounds (Basic)

From: A Handbook of Diction for Singers (Italian, German, and French)- By David Adams
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"a" and "à" when it is not nasalized and is the only vowel-letter in the syllable makes the sound [a] as in...
apparat (or) à
"oi" makes the sound [wah] as in...
oiseau
e in medial -emm and -enn makes the sound [a] as in...
femme (first e)
â in all common words makes the sound-
ame
a followed by silent s (except in verb forms) makes the sound-
âme
a when immediately followed by the sound [s] makes the sound-
[α]
Ex: passer [pαse]
a when followed by the sound [z] makes the sound-
[α]
Ex: extase [εkstα:z(∂)]
gazon [gαzõ]
There are several isolated words that have dark a [α].
Ex: diable [djα:bl(∂)]
fable [fα:bl(∂)]
damner [dαne]
trois [trwα]
è ALWAYS makes the sound-
[ε]
Ex: mère [mε:r(∂)]
ê ALWAYS makes the sound-
[ε]
Ex: tête [tεt(∂)]
ë makes the sound-
[ε]
Ex: Noël [n⊃εl]
é only when followed by a mute e in the next syllable makes the sound-
[ε]
Ex: medecin [mεd(∂)s(E~)]
Medial e when followed by a consonant in the same syllable or a consonant cluster beginning with s makes the sound-
[ε]
Ex: perdu [pεrdy]
bestiaire [bεstjε:r(∂)]
e when followed by a double consonant makes the sound-
[ε]
Ex: elle [εl(∂)]
e when followed by a final consonant makes the sound-
[ε]
Ex: mer [mε:r]
e followed by a final silent t makes the sound-
[ε]
Ex: secret [s∂crε]
est [ε]
(exception: et [e])
e makes the sound [ε] in the folloing words:
les [lε]
des [dε]
ces [cε]
mes [mε]
ses [sε]
tes [tε]
Except when nasalized, ei makes the sound-

Including e before -il and -ill

And rarely ey
[ε]
Ex: pleine [plεn(∂)]

Ex: soleil [s⊃lε:j]

Ex: pleyon [plεjõ]
Except when nasalized, ai makes the sound-

Including various spellings of aie(s)

and verb endings -ais, -ait, -aient
[ε]
Ex: mais [mε]

Ex: haie [ε]

Ex: parlais [parlε]
Medial ay in the sound-
...except when voclic harmonization is applied
[εj]
Ex: payer [pεje] or [peje]
Final -aye(s) results in the sound
[ε]
Ex: payes [pε]
* e followed by n or m (including initial emm and enn) in the same syllable results in-
-the nasal sound [ã]
Ex: ammener [ãm∂ne]
* Medial emm and enn often have the sound-
[a]
Ex: femme [fam(∂)]
* initial dess, desc, ef, and ess make the sound-
[e]
Ex: dessert [desε:r]

(Exceptions: dessous [d∂su]
dessus [d∂sy]
* initial ress usually has the sound-
[∂]
Ex: ressembler [r∂sãble]
é results in the sound-
(except when the next syllable has a (∂)
[e]
Ex: étoile [etwal(∂)]
e (when not nasalized) before final silent consonants, except s and t, makes the sound-

Including verb endings -er and -ez

And polysyllabic nouns/adjectives ending in -er
[e]
Ex: pied [pje]

Ex: parler [parle]

Ex: février [fevrje]
e in initial dess- and desc- makes the sound-
[e]
Ex: dessécher [dese∫e]
e in initial eff- and ess- makes the sound-
[e]
Ex: effet [efε]
ai when final in verb forms makes the sound-
[e]
Ex: serai [s∂re]
* When the syllable following ai has a closed vowel, it may be pronounced-
[e]
Ex: plaisir [plezi:r]
ay in pays and derivatives makes the sound
[e]
Ex: pays [pei]
paysan [peizã]
o when followed by a sounded consonant or h in the same word (except [z])
[⊃]
Ex: dormir [d⊃rmi:r]
o when followed by [z]
[o]
Ex: rose [ro:z(∂)]
o when dollowed by -tion
[o]
Ex: motion [mosjõ]
o followed by another vowel-letter sounding as a separate vowel sound in the same word
[o]
Ex: poète [p⊃εt(∂)]
au only when followed by r
*and in these isolated words:
[⊃]
Ex: Fauré [f⊃re]
Ex: mauvais [m⊃vε]
Paul [p⊃l]
In some words(rare), the spelling -um is pronounced
[⊃]
Ex: album [alb⊃m]
référendum [refer(ε~)d⊃m]
o when final in a word
[o]
Ex: écho [eko]
o followed by a final silent consonant
[o]
Ex: mot [mo]
ô is ALWAYS
[o]
Ex: hôtel [otεl]
au usually (except before r)
[o]
Ex: automne [ot⊃n(∂)]
eau ALWAYS
[o]
Ex: l'eau [lo]
i, î, ï when it is the only vowel letter in the syllable and is not nasalized
[i]
Ex: ici [isi]
y or (y**) is the only vowel letter in the syllable and is not nazalized
[i]
lys [lis]
in spoke French, final -ie is
[i] though some musical settings have [i∂]
Ex: vie [vi] or [vi∂]
Verb infinitives ending in -ire
[ie]
Ex: oublier [ublie]

or [je]
Ex: dédier [dedje]
Verbs with medial -ie
Just have [i]
Ex: dédiera
When -ie is followed by another letter in the syllable it will be
[ije] or [jε]
Ex: hier [jε:r]
miel [mjεl]
ou and variations où, oû, aou, aoû
[u]
Ex: retour [r∂tu:r]
when ou is folloew by another vowel in the syllable, it usually acts as
the glide [w]
Ex: ouest [wεst]
Musical settings of polysyllablic words with ou plus vowel usually turn the glide into a vowel
Ex: rouet [rwε] = [ruε]
when the combination of oue is followed by a pronounced consonant plus vowel it is ALWAYS
just [u] in speach and singing
Ex: rouerie [ruri]
ou folle by ill results in
[uj]
Ex: mouiller [muje]