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“e”, “é” or “è” ?

In French, there are 3 different accents on « e ». It is important to know them as it changes the pronunciation of the word.

The 3 accents:

“é”: acute accent like : été (summer)

“è”: grave accent like accès (access)

“ê”: circumflex accent like tête (head), less used

So how to know which accent is the right one, here are few tips :

  • “e” before the last consonant of the word : NO accent

Example : fier (proud), sec (dry), assez (enough), pied (foot).

Except when the last consonant is “s” : accès (access), abcès (abscess)….

  • “e” before an “x”: NO accent

Example : exercice (exercise), flexible, silex (flint)

  • « e » before 2 or more consonants (which are linked liked double consonants like “ll” / “ff” or more than 2 consonants like “thn” / “sch” / “rsp”: NO accent

Example : effort, letter (letter), appellation (name/title), belle (beautiful), perspicace (perceptive), ethnologue (ethnologist), quetsche (damson plum)

  • BUT there is an accent when the 2 consonants following “e” are making 1 sound like “ch” / “gn” / “th” / “ph” as if it was only 1 consonant.

Example: flèche (arrow), régner (to reign), éléphant

  • BUT there is an accent when the 2nd consonant is “l” or “r”

Example : négliger (to neglect/overlook), zèbre (zebra), trèfle (clover)

  • “é” : acute accent when the “e” is the first letter of the word or the last letter of the word

Example : éléphant, élever (to raise children), électricité (electricity), blé (wheat), oublié (forgotten), clé (key)

  • « é » : acute accent when the following syllable has no silent “e”

Example: sécurité (security), régal (delight)

  • “é”: acute accent when the “e” is part of the syllable: dé-, mé-, pré-

Example : veloper (to develop), se fier (to mistrust), prévenir (to prevent)

  • “è” : grave accent when the next syllable has a mute “e”

Example : solfège (solfeggio), règlement (regulation, rules, payement), fièrement (proudly), il achète (he buys)

  • « è » : grave accent when the last consonant of the word is an “s” (not a plural)

Example : après (after), succès (success)

If you read several times these tips, you will always know if the “e” required an accent or not because French is a complex language but with lots of logical rules!

Let’s practice your “e, é, è” !


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