French Alphabet Pronunciation — Complete Chart With Audio

Getting the hang of the French alphabet (l’alphabet français) is the first step in mastering French pronunciation. I’ve had my fair share of embarrassing pronunciation incidents and a few could’ve been avoided if I knew my alphabet better. And despite having lived in France for three years, there are a few tough French words I’m still getting the hang of. 

French Alphabet: Complete Guide With Audio

So if you’re getting frustrated with your French pronunciation, try not to worry too much about it. The right pronunciation comes with time and a little bit of daily practice makes perfect.

Today we’re going to go through the pronunciation of every letter of the French alphabet, the different sounds they make when they join together, and the pronunciation and spelling of some of the trickiest French words. 

The French Alphabet and its Pronunciation

For a quick run-through of the French Alphabet, try running it through with Alexa. She’ll read through the whole alphabet for you and you get a spell out a few French words together. 

You’ll also get to work on the pronunciation of French vowels.

If you’d rather listen to each letter on your own time, listen to this alphabet recording as many times as you’d like. Some French letters sound almost identical to those in English, like the letter F.

The most confusing pair is J and G because their pronunciations are reversed in French compared to English. Make sure to give this an extra listen or two!

French alphabet chart with audio

LetterPronunciation SymboleSounds
A[a]ah
B[be]bay
C[se]say
D[de]day
E[ə]uh
F[ɛf]ehf
G[ʒe]zhay
H[aʃ]ahsh
I[i]ee
J[ʒi]zhee
L[ɛl]ehl
M[ɛm]ehm
N[ɛn]ehn
O[o]oh
P[pe]pay
Q[ky]ku
R[ɛʀ]]ehr
S[ɛs]ehs
T[te]tay
U[y]u
V[ve]vay
W[dubləve]doub-luh-vay
X[iks]eeks
Y[igʀɛk]ee-grec
Z[zɛd]zed
French alphabet letters
Letters of the French alphabet

Navigating French Letters and Their Pronunciations

While there are only twenty-six letters in the French alphabet, there are thirty-eight phonetic sounds. Some letters like “U” have two different pronunciations, while two letter L’s together can sometimes make a “ye” sound.

The French language also contains sounds we don’t have in English including one of the “U” sounds and the “R” sound. 

Pronouncing the French “R”

The French “R” sound is without a doubt the hardest sound for English speakers to master when learning French.

I used to live in a town called Rouen, which is always included in lists of the hardest French words to pronounce. The hard “R” followed by that pesky “en” sound still gives me trouble. 

The “R” sound happens in the back of your throat almost like a rough “H.” It takes a lot of practice, but you’ll get it right eventually. If you’re struggling, try growling.

You’ll feel that rumble in back of your throat and that’s the basis of the French “R” sound. Here are a few words you can try:

Rouen – the capital city of Normandy

Une erreur – error

Bonjour – hello

Pronouncing the French “U”

Another tricky sound can be the main “U” sound. You can make this “U” sound by pursing your lips and bringing your tongue closer to the roof of your mouth. You can hear it in these words:

Une Plume – feature

Une Voiture – car

Une Usine – factory

A lot of English speakers want to pronounce the French “U” sound like we do in English, as an “oo” sound. But the French already have a way to say the “oo” sound and it’s with the letters “ou.” One of the best ways to detect the difference between the “U” sound and the “ou” sound is with the words “above” and “below” in French.

Dessus – above

Dessous – below

The letter “u” can also make the “oo-ye” sound, which you’ll find in words like this:

Fuir – to run away

Un Bruit – noise

Cuit – cooked

Pronouncing the double L in French

Two letter L’s also make the sound “ye” when they appear after any vowel + the letter “I.” A few examples are:

Une cuillère – spoon

Une aiguille – needle

Une feuille – leaf

Though, there are exceptions to this rule with words like chantilly and fille

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The French “Ch”

Just like in English, putting two different letters together can sometimes change their pronunciation. In English, we have pairs like “sh,” “ch,” and “th.”

In French, also have “ch,” but they pronounce it like our “sh” in words like:

Un chocolat – chocolate

Une hache – axe

Un artichaut – artichoke

Most Difficult French Words to Spell and Pronounce

Earlier I mentioned how I still struggle to pronounce the French city, Rouen. So while we’re chatting about difficult French words, I thought I would share a list of some of the hardest French words to pronounce and how to spell them.

Un écureuil – squirrel

E-C-U-R-E-U-I-L

Une quincaillerie – hardware store

Q-U-I-N-C-A-I-L-L-E-R-I-E

Un yaourt – yogurt

Y-A-O-U-R-T

Trois – three

T-R-O-I-S

Une serrurerie – locksmithing

S-E-R-R-U-R-E-R-I-E

Reims – city in the region of La Marne

R-E-I-M-S

Une heure – hour

H-E-U-R-E

Une fourrure – fur

F-O-U-R-R-U-R-E

Caoutchouc – rubber

C-A-O-U-T-C-H-O-U-C

Pronouncing and Spelling Your Name in French

Now that you’ve gone through the entire French alphabet and some of the most difficult French words to spell and pronounce, it’s time to have fun with your own name!

Unfortunately, I can’t reveal how to spell every name out there. But here’s how to spell the most common girl and boy names in the United States and in France.

American Girl Names in French

Olivia
O-L-I-V-I-A

Emma
E-M-M-A

Charlotte
C-H-A-R-L-O-T-T-E

Amelia
A-M-E-L-I-A

Ava
A-V-A

American Boy Names in French

James
J-A-M-E-S

Robert
R-O-B-E-R-T

John
J-O-H-N

David
D-A-V-I-D

Popular French Girl Names and Spelling

Jade
J-A-D-E

Louise
L-O-U-I-S-E

Laura
L-A-U-R-A

Alice
A-L-I-C-E

Ambre
A-M-B-R-E

Popular French Boy Names and Spelling

Léo
L-E-O

Gabriel
G-A-B-R-I-E-L

Raphaël
R-A-P-H-A-Ë-L

Louis
L-O-U-I-S

Jules
J-U-L-E-S

Now give it a try with your own name! You’ll be spelling like the French in no time.

Master French Like A Pro!
In addition to learning the letters in French, it’s also important to master reading and accents. This page on our site covers the French reading rules (including nasal sounds) and this page explains how to read the French accent marks.

We also suggest considering Frenchtoday.com’s Secrets Of French Pronunciation course.

Related lessons:

Sign Up For A FREE Trial French Lesson On Skype And Get Instant Access To My French Pronunciation Crash Course.

Get the French Pronunciation Crash Course!

About Calli Zarpas

Calli Zarpas, blogger, producer, and content creator, is a lover of all things travel, wellness, and French. Having begun traveling in her teens, Calli visited 30 countries before settling down in France post-college. When she's not writing French-language content for French Learner or traveling the world, you can find Calli creating content for herself and others on InstagramTiktok, and her blog, Wooish.

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