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Accents in French

  • 1603

In French, there are 4 accents for vowels and 1 accent for a consonant.

The "accent aigu" ´ (acute accent) can only be on an E.

The "accent grave" ` (grave accent) can be on an A, E, or U. On the A and U, it usually serves to distinguish between words that would otherwise be written the same, ex: ou (or) vs où (where), "a" (has) vs "à" (to, at)

The "accent circonflexe" ˆ (circumflex) can be on an A, E, I, O, or U. In general, it indicates that an S used to follow that vowel, e.g., forêt (forest).

The "accent tréma" ¨ (dieresis or umlaut) can be on an E, I, or U. It is used when two vowels are next to each other and both must be pronounced, ex: maïs.

The "cédille" ¸ (cedilla) is found only on the letter C. It changes a hard C sound (like K) into a soft C sound (like S), e.g., garçon. It never appears in front of E or I, as C always sounds like an S in front of them.

Accents have to be placed in their proper places, otherwise it is considered as a spelling mistake. (Exception: capital letters are often left unaccented)

December 24, 2013



Merci beaucoup pour explique ça (I hope I said that right) lol


Almost correct :) you need a verb after the "pour" you could say "Merci beaucoup pour m'avoir expliqué ça" in english it means Thank you a lot for explain me this. If you have some other questions I'm a french native speacker :)


Merci beaucoup pour m'avoir l'expliqué, est-ce faux?

J'ai mal avec 'avoir'. ....pour me l'expliquer, pour m'expliquer cela, pour expliquer ça à moi; [any one right?]

  • 1603

*pour me l'avoir expliqué


*pour me l'avoir expliqué

*merci de me l'avoir expliqué

Reference, here :

Merci de (+ infinitif) : merci d'être venu. (L'infinitif est toujours introduit par de.)


Although you're a spanish speaker i'm pretty sure ive been taught the rule where if a verb follows you'd use 'de' over 'pour'. So "Merci d'explique ca" should be correct? and its merci pour when your naming like "merci pour ta aide"?


Great topic. I think that Duolingo has let me be really lazy about those, because it lets words without accents and I think it is not good. Now I have big problem with it and it is hard to learn it once again.

Especially in timed practice I always just type letters from my keayboard, because clicking with mouse on appropriate letter takes too much time..

Remy, as you are part of Duolingo team, may I ask if you have ever considered having some shortcut for extra letter? Like to make it using Ctrl? Polish keyboard is probably only one that doesn't have our special characters built in it (we have standard English keyboard) and we make those special characters by using Ctrl+letter. Maybe it could work as some extension here as well.


Iustitia, in Windows, in linux/UNIX systems, and surely on Macs the French standard keyboard can be installed (software), which of course gives all the French accent characters, at least on the lower case letters. That is what I use, and it got me through the French language tree, always typing the accent characters. But it can be a bother, as a few of the letters, not to mention punctuation marks, are not where they are on the English keyboard.

I think that (but am not sure if) the standard Spanish keyboard has all of the accents needed. Its alphabetic characters are positioned as on the English keyboard, but some punctuation characters are in different places. However, I bet you do not punctuate when doing timed practice, anyway. :)

The "International English" keyboard is supposed to have the necessary accent marks, but I have not tried it.

There has been discussion of this before on this forum, so if you're interested try a search. Or I can help if you can't find good instructions.

But I like your idea of using shortcut keys. That would be by far the best.

  • 468

I am trying to learn Alt codes for accents - and have a list posted by my computer for all the accents and their letters. Over time, I'm learning codes for each one, and find they are faster than clicking on the appropriate letter below a sentence in a Duolingo exercise. Besides the accents aren't always available, as in adding to a discussion like this.


I definitely recommend the "US International keyboard" as it is quite useful, it allows you to write almost every language uses Latin alphabet.

Here is useful tutorial to help you learn the combinations: US International keyboard


What about letter Œ and œ? What are they called and how to pronounce them?

  • 1603

"Œ" (capital) or "œ" (lower case) is called "e dans l'o" (literally "e in the o"). It is the fusion of the letter "o" and the letter "e".

It has 2 possible pronunciations:

  • the same as the "e" in the pronoun "je" (I), for example in "vœu" (vow/wish)

http://translate.google.fr/#fr/en/vœu (Click on the speaker button)

  • the same as the "eu" in the adjective "neuf" (new), for example in "bœuf" (beef) or "œil" (eye)



(Click on the speaker button)


Could we write "OE" (separately)?


I believe it is spelling mistake then. At least, that is what Duolingo pointed out to me.

  • 1603

We accept "oe", but the correct form is "œ", and that's the one we teach.


MDR, Cette est tres utile, Merci


Merci , Ce est vraiment utile.


This is really helpful, thanks.


Exception: capital letters are often left unaccented

Are there any rules on this? What is considered "normal"?

  • 1603

The "Académie Française" recommends to accentuate the capital letters, but unaccented capital letters are tolerated.


Thanks! Have my like.. er.. Lingot.


You can still use umlauts on capitals if you're truly metal enough.


Or any other accents. But we mostly don't do it, either in handwriting or typing (Word corrects it automatically though, but we don't bother doing it manually). Even official documents don't have them.


Is there any rule, or at least suggestion, to learn proper uses of the accent aigu and accent grave for "e", or they definitely have to be learned by rote? (apart form the accents for conjugations). Thanks.


Hello, aigu means "sharp" grave means "heavy". The é is a sharp e, the è is more heavy or low. When is an e aigue and how do you write it? When is it grave and how do you write it?

I use the following rule of the thumb: The french word élève has the two accents in one word. And the accents go away from the letter L between them. Now it is necesseray that you learn to pronounce élève correctly, and from that moment you know which accent to use and how te pronounce it. When it is sharp, it goes up from left to right. When it is heavy or low, it goes down from left to right.



I also think of an analog gauge. Pointed to the left is low, slow, quiet. Pointed to the right is high, fast, loud. That corresponds with the way the sounds feel to me.


SF thanks for your idea too



Thanks, It is helpful.


Very helpful! Thx


Thank you, as ALWAYS for this FANTASTIC information Remy.

I will also be linking to this from a recent post I have created for how to type French accents, that I thought people who visit this information, may also find interesting.

It is [Guide] French keyboard and French accents


how to remember accents,make them thorough?how to practice accents?merci


Merci for the tip!


C’est une explication brillante! Merci beaucoup


I don't grasp accent grave over in in "frère but accent aigu in "Américain since the e sound is the same in both words ?



The è in frère or père sounds very similar to the English words “their” or “there”, it comes even near to “man”. The é in Américain sounds more like the a in “amen” or “baby”.

As you can see, they don’t sound the same.

Best regards,



Perfect clarification--You are wonderful, Thank You!


Will duolingo be implementing the new rules after the "clean up" of the French language ? Having read that these are not to be taught in French schools now I just wonder at the need to learn them when there is enough other things to take onboard.


No answer to John's question yet???

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