How to Pronounce Combined Vowels in French

Several vowel combinations are possible in French: two or three vowels together or a vowel and a consonant. But each time the sound produced is a vowel sound, even when a consonant is included.

How to pronounce vowel combinations with a

The combination of a + i sounds like the first vowel sound (eh) in pleasure. Examples include mais (meh) (but), faire (fehr) (to do), and jamais (jah-meh) (never).

The combinations a + u and e + a + u have the sound oh, like the o in Halloween. Examples include, cadeau (kah-doh) (gift) and l’eau (loh) (the water).

How to pronounce vowel combinations with e

The combination e + t sounds like the first e in the English word ceremony. It is equivalent to the French é (e with an acute accent). Example words with this sound include bonnet (bohh-ney) (wool cap), sonnet (soh-ney) (sonnet), and cadet (kah-dey) (youngest son).

The combination e + u has the sound uh, like the e of the. Examples include: jeu (juh) (game), peu (puh) (a little), deux (duh) (two), and all adjectives ending in eux, such as ­heureux (uh-ruh) (happy).

The combination e + z also sounds like the first e in the English word ceremony. It is equivalent to the French é. Examples include: nez (ney) (nose), chez (shey) (at the house of), and most verb endings for the vous form of the present tense, such as jouez (zhooh-ey) (you play).

How to pronounce vowel combinations with o

The combination of o + i and o + y sounds like wah, as in the word watt. Examples include words like quoi (kwah) (what), foire (fwahr) (fair), and moi (mwah) (me) and also words with a y, like voyager (vwah-yah-zhey) (to travel).

The combination o + u has the sound ooh, like the u of sushi, but not at all like the ou of you, which is modulated! In fact, this difference is what you need to be aware of when pronouncing this sound: Do not modulate it. Examples include mousse (moohs) (foam), coude (koohd) (elbow), and chou (shooh) (cabbage).

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