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E with accent (É, È, Ê, Ë) - Purpose and pronunciation

E with accent

On top of the vowels a, i, o, u, the French accents may only have a grammatical purpose.

However, when added to the letter e, the accents always alter the pronunciation.

Here’s all you need to know to pronounce the letter e with accent like a native!

Table of content

e with acute accent – é

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L’accent aigu (acute accent) can only be added to the vowel e. It has an impact on the pronunciation.

é is pronounced as in the English word (may), but without pronouncing the second part of the vowel sound, associated to the letter y. Here is an example:

l'été (the summer)

A difficult sound in French?

The sound é seems difficult to pronounce for English speakers.

Even advanced learners tend to pronounce it as in the word (may), maintaining the y sound at the end.

Therefore, you may need some time to master the acute accent, in French!

e with grave accent – è

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You may also find l’accent grave (grave accent) on the vowel e.

You should pronounce the letter è as in the English word (a bed):

très (very)

e with circumflex – ê

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When added to the letter e, l’accent circonflexe (circumflex) also changes the pronunciation.

e with circumflex (ê) will be pronounced the same as è. It is the same sound as in the English word (a bed). For example:

vous êtes (you are, plural)

The original purpose of the circumflex in French is to indicate that a letter has been dropped from the original spelling. For example, a long time ago, une forêt (a forest) used to be written like the English word: une forest.

e with diaeresis – ë

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The purpose of the tréma (diaeresis) is to show that two vowels must be pronounced separately.

In French, we use many combined letters. These are clusters of letters which form a unique sound.

However, when we want to pronounce each vowel separately, we add a diaeresis.

In other words, the diaresis is used to “break” the letter combinations.

Here is the example of two words (without and with diaeresis) for you to hear the (slight) difference:

la poêle (the frying pan)

noël (Christmas)


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