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French vowel combinations - a pronunciation guide

French vowel combinations

The vowel combinations reprensent 5 different sounds in French.

Here’s how to recognize them and pronounce them right.

Table of content


Sound #1: ai / ei

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The two combinations ai and ei form the same sound.

They are pronounced as in the English word (a bed).

Here are two examples:


faire (to do, to make)



seize (sixteen)


Note that adding an n at the end of the combinations ai or ei will form a completely different sound.

ain and ein are nasal vowels.


Sound #2: au / eau

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au and eau sound the same as oa in the English word (a boat).

For example:


faux (wrong)



un gâteau (a cake)



Sound #3: eu / œu

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eu is another type of combined vowels in French.

Pronounce this sound as in the English word (her):


une heure (an hour)


You will also find the vowel cluster œu in some words. It is pronounced the same:

la sœur (the sister)



Sound #4: ou

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The combination ou is pronounced as in the English word (a tool).

It is a very common vowel combination in French. For example:


une roue (a wheel)



fou (crazy)



Sound #5: oi

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In the combination oi, the letter i should be pronounced as an a, as in (a farm).

Therefore the sound oi is similar to the one in the word (a waffle).


un roi (a king)



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