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How can I tell if there is/are accent(s) in a word?

I could clearly hear the grave (e.g: lumière, I suppose that without the grave, it is pronounced as /lumiir/) and the only acute (é), but the other accents, I could not. How could I hear/identify them? I'm just going with the flow all these months of leaning French, I'm sorry.

I refuse to believe the when there is a circumflex, there used to be an "s" there. I refuse to believe that a word asme (âme) existed. I could not even pronounce that asme

April 21, 2018



About the circumflex, you can see it in some words like fête (festa in Italian/Portuguese) or tête (testa in Italian)

Sometimes you just have to learn the word with its accents, some of them are important, préféré and préfère, for instance.


An awful lot of learning to spell in any language is just memorizing it. But, just like in English, there are some general rules and tips for how to learn to get the spelling right, including accents, from recognizing the sounds. I'm sure you could find some other articles and sites by doing searches, but here is one article you may find helpful to get the idea........



The only accents that affect pronounciation are the accents on the letter e (é is pronounced /e/ and è/ê are pronounced /ε/), as well as ô which is pronounced /o/ while a plain o can be pronounced as /o/ or /ɔ/ depending on the environment, and the tréma which shows where two adjacent vowels do not form a diphtong (like oï which is pronounced /oi/ while oi is /wa/).

â,î,û (which became for the most part optional after the 1990 spelling reform) usually mark a letter which ceased to be pronounced in Middle French (about 500 years ago), often an s, but not always (the circumflex in âme represents a lost n, the word comes from Latin anima). They are also sometimes used to distinguish homophones like sûr/sur or dû/du.

à and ù are only used to distinguish homophones (à/a, où/ou, là/la...) and do not affect pronounciation.

By the way, there is nothing impossible about pronouncing a word as /asm/: that's how we pronounce the word 'asthme'.


Is there a glottal stop in the û of « dû »? I have been encountering that word here in DL and couldn't hear the glottal stop.


No. Glottal stops are quite rare in French, and they are never required to pronounce a word correctly. The only common word I can think of that is usually pronounced with a glottal stop would be "maintenant" (replacing the "te"). If you listen very carefully to French speakers, you will hear glottal stops, but they are a function of what is called "stress" and not pronunciation per se.


Ohh, I got used in other languages that a cirumflex is pronounced as acute+grave (â=áà)

Btw, is it only in French or the diaeresis indicates that two side-by-side vowels should be pronounced individually (like the French Isaïe or haïr). In other language, they pronounce the diaeresis, especially in Sweden, their county names usually has the diaeresis (e.g: Östergötland, Jämtland, Södermanland and the three -köping)

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>I refuse to believe the when there is a circumflex, there used to be an "s" there. I refuse to believe that a word asme (âme) existed. I could not even pronounce that asme

Eh, that's an odd take on that. "Asme" is not particularly difficult to pronounce, there's actually "asthme" (asthma) that's pronounced like that (the th being silent). That being said in the case of "âme" I don't believe it's replacing an "s" because I can't really imagine how we could've ended up with "asma" from latin "anĭma". The wiktionary says: "On peut considérer que le circonflexe représente la perte du n de l’ancien français anme, malgré le fait que l’orthographe la plus populaire en moyen français ame." so apparently it's replacing the n from "anme".

Sometimes knowing where an accent comes from can make it easier to remember the meaning of words, especially for English words coming from French before the change occurred. So we have "forest" -> "forêt", "castle" -> "château", "paste" -> "pâte" etc...

But really at some point you just have to learn them I think, it's part of the spelling of the word. I suspect that eventually you'll start becoming familiar enough with the language that you'll be able to "predict" the accents to some extent.


The accent grave marks where there was historically an 's' and does not affect pronunciation. The other two can be heard in the pronunciation.


Try going through, listening very carefully, the phonology sections of one or more of these courses, which have audio. Read the descriptive text and then listen very carefully until you can hear what is being taught--if not the first time through, then after returning for another try or two. This can be boring, but it really pays off.


you aren't meant to hear the circumflex. Of all the diacritical marks, it's the most useless. It just got there because of evolution. You'll stop refusing to believe eventually: foret (forest), hotel (hostel), hopital (hospital). My guess is that in a hundred years it will disappear from the french orthography.

You should certainly be able to hear the trema, the cedille, the grave, and the acute. Not necessarily on the robovoice used in duolingo, but in real speech.

I'm lazy so I don't usually use the diacritics on duolingo--I always get the "Pay attention..." admonition. I type words like garcon and jalapeno on this website. But I know that they should be there. (Certainly if I'm making a shopping list by hand I take the trouble to write jalapeño, and I'd write garçon if I were typing up a formal report.)

In Spanish, I've noticed that the grave is used mostly when a syllable is stressed that would not normally be stressed. Quizas would have a stress on the first syllable, for example, according to the rules of pronunciation of Spanish. That's why they write quizás (peut-être) to tell you to pronounce it kiTHASS. But on this website you won't get it wrong if you're lazy and just write quizas. You'll just get the "pay attention..." bit. French has four useful diacritics (and two useless ones), but again you don't really need to type them to advance.

That said, I think you should write them if you're composing a letter. By hand, it's easy enough, and on a cell phone, you just hold down the key till the menu of diacritics become available. On MS word and other computer platforms, there are a number of options for typing them. In German, it can make a real difference, but then you can always spell words like Führer as Fuehrer, so even in formal writing they can be ignored. Just make sure you capitalize the noun. The Germans apparently love their nouns. Not their verbs, though, which have to wait till the end of the sentence. ;)

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