How To Read French (36+ Reading Rules For Beginners)

How To Read FrenchMy name is David Issokson and I have been teaching French online since late-2013. One of the trickiest aspects to learning French is the pronunciation. This is because French is not phonetic. The secret to pronouncing French properly is mastering the reading rules. This is a topic that nobody wants to talk about.

I have taught hundreds of students how to apply these rules over the years. The process takes just one our two hours.  Please contact me if you’re interested in getting these rules down and mastering French pronunciation. 

Speed up your learning with an app

Many of our students have greatly enhanced their learning by using an app. On these pages we've examined the top-30 apps for learning French. On this pages we've written comprehensive reviews for Pimsleur (great for people struggling with pronunciation), Rosetta Stone and FrenchPod101 (both great for visual learners).

Listen and repeat!
1) 'en’ is always nasalenfant, pendant, lent, entre, encore, enfin, endroit, ensemble, Coréen, Tunisien
2) 'an’ is always nsaalenfant, pendant, ancien, anglais, naissance, musulman, pantoufle, occupant
3) 'in’ is always nasalinviter, Martin, installer, inconnu, indépendant, ingénieur, injuste
4) ain - sounds like nasal 'in' soundaméricain, certain, terrain, écrivain
5) 'on’ is nasaloncle, ongle, onduler, ongle, non, bon, bonjour, Simon
6) If a word ends in two consonants, ignore the last consonant.Robert, Albert, concert, rochefort, roquefort, transport, vêtement, restaurant, élégant
7) é (e accent aigu) sounds like ‘ay’ as in play.café, Céline, parlé, été, André, éléphant, élégant, école, étudie
8) words ending in -ai sound like -éparlerai, mangerai, finirai, vendrai
9) l'accent grave è = eh as in getmère, père, frère, préfère
10 ) Words ending in the following sound like ‘ay’ or -é: -er, -ez, -ais, -aitparler, parlez, danser, voyagez, mais, fait
11) 'oi’ sounds like ‘wah”moi, toi, quoi, soi, voit, doigt, boire, mademoiselle, framboise, toilette, emploi
12) If a word ends in vowel + consonant, ignore the last consonantpetit, Louis, François, Denis, Nicolas, Thomas
13) If a word ends in vowel + consonant + E, OR vowel + 2 consonants + E, that final E forces the last consonant to get pronouncedpetite, Louise, Françoise, cerise, fraise, verte, couverte, différente
14) single -i sounds like ee as feetpetit, île, lit, vite, livre, formidable
15) single S = zIsabelle, désert, ciseaux, lisent
16) double SS = -s as in Samdessert, chaussette, message
17) ç (la cédille) = S as in Samfrançais, ça, prononçons
18) CaReFuL: If a word ends in CRFL you must pronounce them.neuf, cerf, Daniel, Marc, Éric, Frédéric
19) ou = oo as in foodvous, fou (crazy), loup (wolf), joue (play), beaucoup
20 ) single u in French "pointed U" tu, bu (drank), lu, su, pu, vu, vendu, défendu
21) LL: sometimes a LL sounds like Yla fille, la famille, Guillaume
22) other times you must say the LLs like English!la ville, le village, mille,
23) ‘au’ = "oh” as in Oh my gosh!aussi (also), Australie, Autriche (Austria), aujourd'hui, Paul, Laurent
24) ci/ce -> Soft C as in SamCéline, cerise, certain, cinéma, ciel, cible
25) c + any other letter is hard c like a Kcroire, crêpe, créer, classe, clé
26) gi/ge -> soft GGéralde, gérer, gens, gîte, génial, girafe
27) Rule: -gr is hard -ggrand, grippe (flu), gros (fat), glacier, glace
28) When a word starts with an H, Don't say it! If a word has TH, skip the H Thomas, Mathieu, sympathique, homme, hôtel, hommard
29) Showed "O" rule: let the listener ‘see’ your -O.opinion, opportunité, orange, Olivier
30) When you see 'eu', make it rhyme with je. deux, feu (fire), je veux (I want), peux
31) ch = shchanger, choix, chez, choisir, chemin
32) eil = ay-yeconseil, Marseil, orteil, pareil, soleil
33) euil - nightmare sound, very difficult (listen to audio above table)écureuil, fauteuil, accueil
34) ouille - another very difficult sound; listen to audio above tablegrenouille, citrouille, débrouille
35) ail = I (as in me!)travail, épouvantail
36) qu = kquestion, quoi, quand, que

related lessons

If you've found this post useful you might want to considering looking at our post covering the best apps for learning French. We've looked a total 33 apps and have written comprehensive reviews of Rosetta Stone, Pimsleur and FrenchPod101.

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!