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How to pronounce the TH sound in French

How to pronounce the TH sound in French

I have taught hundreds of hours of French lessons since 2014 and one question that comes up again and again is “How to I pronounce the TH sound”? Very simply, the answer is: Ignore the H and just pronounce the T. For example, le thé (tea) sounds like “tay”. Voilà. That’s the end of the lesson. Je plaisante. Just kidding. Keep reading for some great example sentences!

le thé


French lesson explaining how to pronounce the TH sound.

TH pronunciation in French

To illustrate the TH pronunciation in French, I’ve listed out several vocabulary words then made example sentences with the given words.

This is way easier than you think. Simply igore the H and say the T. Many students make the mistake of pronouncing the TH like an English TH with the tongue between the teeth. By the end of this lesson you’ll see that this is just so easy!

Words and example sentences

Of all the words with TH in French, les mathématiques and les maths are the words on which I’ve seen students make mistakes the most frequently. The adjective nul/nulle means to be lousy.

Les mathématiques. Je suis nul en mathématiques. Je déteste les maths !

Mathetmatics. I’m lousy at mathematics. I hate math!

Most people actually don’t make this mistake of saying an English TH on the word sympathique (nice). I just included this word in the lesson as it’s frequently used in French. The French also use a shortened version sympa for nice. For example, il est sympa (he is nice).

Sympathique. Julie est une jeune fille très sympathique.

Nice. Julie is a very nice young girl.

There was absolutely no way I could do a lesson on the French TH without including the famous French singer, Édith Piaf! As I already stated, simply ignore the H. Hence, Édith sounds like: “Ay-deet”.

Édith. Ma chanson favorite d’Édith Piaf est la Vie en rose.

Edith. My favorite Edith Piaf song is la Vie en rose.

Similar to the previously mentioned mathématiques, students frequently make the mistake of pronouncing athlétique (athletic) with an English TH.

Athlétique. Marie est une femme très athlétique.

Athletic. Marie is a very athletic woman.

For the word thé, most people find it intuitive to not pronounce an English TH because the English word is “tea”. That said, the word thé in French perfectly illustrates the rule of skipping the H. Indeed, pronouncing the TH in English on the French thé would sound ridiculous!

Le thé. Préférez-vous boire le thé ou le café ?

Tea. Do you prefer drinking tea or coffee?


Et voilà ! You should now have a very clear understanding of how to pronounce the TH sound in French. A logical next step after this lesson would be to check our lesson covering the French reading rules. In addition to this TH rule, you’ll find all the other rules you’ll need to sound out and pronounce French words.

You might also want to check our review of the French Pimsleur app. Pimsleur is famous for having done great work in the area of pronunciation.

le Panthéon in Paris

This is le Panthéon in Paris. Do not pronounce the H and say: pan-tay-on.

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David Issokson

David Issokson is a lifelong language enthusiast. His head is swimming with words and sounds as he speaks over six languages. Of all the languages he speaks, he's the most passionate about French! David has helped hundreds of students to improve their French in his private online lessons. When procrastinating working on his site,, David enjoys his time skiing and hiking in Teton Valley, Idaho.

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