The acute and grave accents in french

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accento grave e acuto

One of the phobias of those who want to learn French is undoubtedly the use of accents. “I will never learn” is what I often hear. In fact, what seems an insurmountable difficulty is not so impossible to defeat. Let’s see.

Accents have a phonetic  value in french.  This means that the accent changes the pronunciation of the word.

First of all, before learning how to properly use the accents in French, you need to distinguish three sounds:

The “e” called caduc, which is the one in the words je, me, le that does not take any accent.

The “e” called “ouvert” that takes the grave accent (è) is pronounced with the open mouth.

The “e” called “fermé” that takes the acute accent (é), is pronounced as if we were smiling.

The mute  “e”  at the end of the word that does not take any accent.

Now let’s see the basic rule:

Each word must be broken down into syllables. If the “e” is at the end of syllable or if it is a syllable on its own, the accent should be put. Grave (è) if the sound is”ouvert”, aigu (é) if the sound is “fermé”.

There are exceptions:

  • the “e” preceding an x never takes the accent (examen, exemple)

  • the agreement of the adjective and past participle does not influence the accent (mariées, animée, etc)

Let’s see some examples:

é-lè-ve: the first “e” is fermé, it is a syllable on its own, so it takes the accent, the second “e” is ouvert, and ends the syllabe so there is the accent,  the last “e” is mute .

ex-cep-tion-in-le-ment: the first “e” precedes x, so no accent, the second is in the middle of the syllable, so no accent, the third idem, and the fourth “e” is caduc, so no accent.

pre-miè-re: the first “e” is caduc and should not be accented, the second is open and ends the syllable then it takes the accent, the last is mute and doesn’t take the accent. 

So do you still think that  the accents in french are  so difficult?

Watch this video to practice and discriminate the various types of “e”.



  • raffaella fraomene Posted 24 September 2015 8:44

    Bonjour PonchiLot, merci pour ton commentaire. Malheureusement, bien qu’ayant étudié le russe il y a quelques années, je ne comprends pas ton message. J’espère que tu as trouvé utile l’article.

  • raffaella Posted 25 June 2016 15:05

    Thank you for your positive comment !

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