Easy French Lesson 6: Accent Marks

Easy French Lesson 6 Accent Marks:

DISCOVERING ACCENT MARKS IN FRENCH

In these Easy French Lessons are letters written by someone taking a first trip to France -- and discovering that many French words are similar to English words, and some French words have accent marks.

Read French Words In English Sentences

The following letter in English has a few French words mixed in. This starts you reading a few French words in the easiest way – in a context of familiar English words in English sentences. Reading French words in English sentences is the very easiest way to begin to read French.

In the following story, the WORDS IN CAPITAL LETTERS are French words that are spelled like English words.

(Also capitalized in this chapter are the French articles that precede French nouns, capitalized here to help you realize that these French word spelled like English really are French also.)

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Letter about Accent Marks in French

Dear Billy Bob,

Bonjour from LA FRANCE. I have L’EXCELLENT HÔTEL.

I've been seeing something peculiar. French has a lot of foreign-looking accent marks.

Some of the French words spelled like English words have accent marks on one or two of the letters, usually over the vowels.

It made me understand something about English that always puzzled me -- why a few words in English have an accent mark when the vast majority do not.

And some English words that have accent marks only sometimes. I've been seeing their French relatives over here where they always come with accent marks.

And I've been reading more French, because I found a special student publication which prints stories with a lot of cognates so English-speakers can understand the stories and learn French more easily.

For example, one story was about UNE DIVORCÉE who was LA FIANCÉE of UN MAÎTRE D' with ÉLAN .

He in turn was UN ROUÉ BLASÉ (playboy), and LE PROTÉGÉ of an ATTACHÉ.

LE ATTACHÉ sent UN COMMUNIQUÉ warning LA DIVORCÉE that LE RÉSUMÉ of his PROTÉGÉ included seeing an INGÉNUE NAÏVE (innocent young girl) of the CRÈME DE LA CRÈME, who was into LE MACRAMÉ and LE PIQUÉ. Quite UN MÉLANGE (mixture). TRÈS RISQUÉ.

They met APRÈS-SKI for UN TÊTE-À-TÊTE (intimate conversation) in UN CAFÉ where he was UN HABITUÉ. They had UN APÉRITIF with LE CONSOMMÉ (clear broth), UN PATÉ, UN CRÊPE, LE RAGOÛT (stew), and UN SAUTÉ with LE SAUCE BÉARNAISE and BÉCHAMEL. With some ROSÉ wine.

Later at LA SOIRÉE at UN DISCOTHÈQUE, there was UN MELÉE, and LA DIVORCÉE wound up DÉCOLLETÉ.

It was DÈJA VU all over again for LA DIVORCÉE -- she saw through LE FAÇADE of her FIANCÉ, who was soon PASSÉ.

Billy Bob, I swear the French seem to just sprinkle accent marks all over their writing. I'm sure glad we don't have to use so many accent marks in English.

A TOUT À L'HEURE (see you later), MON CHER. Love, Candy

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ACCENT MARKS ON FRENCH WORDS

Unlike other Romance languages, the accent marks rarely imply stress in French.

In French, only one accent mark over a vowel changes the pronunciation of only one vowel, an –é-.

In French, this accent mark over the – é – is used only on é. It is known as an ‘acute accent mark’ or in French ‘accent aigu’.

In contrast to the accent mark slanting the other way, the – è – called the ‘accent grave’.

This distinguishes é -- from è, ê, and e.

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ACCENT MARKS ON FRENCH WORDS IN ENGLISH

Some French words with accent marks that have been imported into English also have accent marks in English, and some do not. Some adopted into English retain their accent marks, for a variety of reasons:

1) Some arrivals are so recent they have not yet lost their accent marks.

2) Some indicate a pronounced vowel that otherwise would not be pronounced in English.

3) Some accent marks distinguish a word from another English word with similar spelling but different meaning.

For example, accent marks serve to differentiate the French noun résumé from the English verb resume (meaning to continue).

And accent marks distinguish rosé wine from a rose flower. Also, exposé from expose, and consumé from consume.

So for you these French words that have retained their accent marks in English are the easiest introduction to French Words with Accent Marks, because you are already familiar with accent marks on these words in English.

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Words Always With Accent Marks in English

French words that always have accent marks in English usually keep the accent marks to distinguish them from another English word spelled the same way but without accent marks. So the accent mark is used to disambiguate certain words which would otherwise be homographs.

For example: rosé (wine) versus rose (flower)

For another example: pâté (meat paste) versus pate (top of the head).

ENGLISH -- FRENCH -- [SAY]

consommé -- consommé -- [‘consommé’]

pâté -- pâté -- [‘pâté’]

rosé -- rosé -- [‘rosé’]

sauté -- sauté -- [“sauté”]

sautéd / sautéed -- sautéd / sautéed -- [“sauté”]

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A few words that sometimes appear in English without accent marks could be confused with a different English word:

For example: résumé (life summary) versus resume (take up again after interruption) [Although there may be no contexts in which this noun resumé could be confused with the other word "resume," which is a verb]

ENGLISH -- FRENCH -- [SAY]

résumé / resume / resumé -- résumé -- [‘résumé’]

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Words Usually With Accent Marks in English, but Sometimes Without

ENGLISH -- FRENCH -- [SAY]

café / cafe -- café -- [‘cafe’]

décor / decor -- décor -- [‘decor’]

divorcé /divorce (man) -- divorcé -- [‘divorcé’]

divorcée /divorcee (woman) -- divorcée -- [‘divorcée’]

entrée / entree -- entrée -- [‘entree’]

matinée / matinee -- matinée -- [‘matinee’]

risqué / risque -- risqué -- [‘risque’]

soirée / soiree -- soirée -- [‘soiree’]

soupçon / soupcon -- soupçon -- [soop-sohn]

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Over time the tendency is for these French words in English to lose their accent marks to become more like all the other English words without accent marks.

With some French words in English the preferred spelling is WITHOUT accent marks. This may mean they have been in English longer and are further along to becoming thought of as English words rather than French imports, so these may be the accented French words most familiar to you.

This also depends on which English dictionary you consult, because dictionaries do vary in this regard.

As throughout this book, the pronunciations given here are the French-speaking ones you will find useful, rather than any anglicized pronunciation modifications.

Words Usually Without Accent Marks in English, but Sometimes With

ENGLISH -- FRENCH -- SAY

aperitif / apéritif -- apéritif -- [‘aperitif’]

cliche / cliché -- cliché -- [‘cliche’]

crepe / crêpe -- crêpe -- [krehp]

debris / débris -- débris -- [‘debris’]

debut / début -- début -- [‘debut’]

decollete / décolleté -- décolleté -- [‘décolleté’]

discotheque /discothèque -- discothèque -- [‘discotheque’]

facade / façade -- façade -- [‘facade’]

fete / fête -- fête -- [‘fete’]

habitue / habitué -- habitué -- [ah-bee-tew-AY]

ingenue / ingénue -- ingénue -- [‘ingenue’]

matinee / matinée -- matinée -- [‘matinée’]

melee / mêlée -- mêlée -- [‘melee’]

naive / naïve -- naïve -- [‘naive’]

passe / passé -- passé -- [‘passe’]

suede / suède -- suède -- [swehd]

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Phrases from French with Accent Marks

ENGLISH -- FRENCH -- SAY

a la carte / à la carte -- à la carte -- [‘a la carte’]

a la mode / à la mode -- à la mode -- [‘a la mode]

deja vu / déjà vu -- déjà vu -- [‘deja vu’]

tête-à-tête / tete-a-tete -- tête-à-tête -- [‘tete-a-tete’]

maître d' / maitre d' -- maître d'hôtel -- [MAY-truh doh-TEL]

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Do Accent Marks In French have a Purpose?

In French, the accent mark over a vowel does not indicate that a syllable is stressed.

In French, the accent mark over a vowel does not change the pronunciation of the vowel, unless it is an –é-.

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ACCENT MARKS ON FRENCH WORDS

Some French words spelled like English have accent marks in French but no accent marks in English.

Seeing these French words that have accent marks in French but no accent marks in English will help you realize that these French words spelled like English really are French words too.

ENGLISH -- FRENCH -- [SAY IN FRENCH]

acne -- acné -- [ahk-nay]

aerobic -- aérobic -- [ah-ay-roh-BEEK]

age -- âge -- [ahzh]

athlete -- athlète -- [aht-LEHT]

cable -- câble -- [KAH-bluh]

cinema -- cinéma -- [‘cinema’]

clientele -- clientèle -- [klee-ehn-TEHL]

coincidence -- coïncidence -- [koh-ang-see-DAHNS]

comedies -- comédies -- [koh-may-DEES]

cone -- cône -- [‘cone’]

conference -- conférence -- [kohng-fay-RAWNGS]

credit -- crédit -- [kray-DEE]

declaration -- déclaration -- [day-klah-rah- see-YOHNG]

deodorant -- déodorant -- [day-oh-doh-RAWNG]

desert -- désert -- [day-SEHR]

detergent -- détergent -- [day-tehr-ZHAWNG]

different -- différent -- [dee-fay-RAHNGT]

education -- éducation -- [ay-dew-kah-see-YOHNG]

election -- élection -- [ay-lehk- see-YOHNG]

elegant -- élégant -- [ay-lay-GAHNT]

experience -- expérience -- [ehk-spay-ree-YAWNGS]

herpes -- herpès -- [ehr-pehs]

hotel -- hôtel -- [oh-TEHL]

ingredients -- ingrédients -- [ehng-gray-dee-YEHNG]

karate -- karaté -- [kah-rah-TAY]

male -- mâle -- [mahl]

medical -- médical -- [may-dee-KAHL]

negligee -- negligée -- [nehg-lee-ZHAY]

niece -- nièce -- [nee-YEHS]

opera -- opéra -- [oh-pay-RAH]

pale -- pâle -- [pahl]

pedicure -- pédicure -- [pay-dee-KEWR]

piece -- pièce -- [pee-YEHS]

reduction -- réduction -- [ray-dewk-see-YOHNG]

region -- région -- [ray-zhee-YOHNG]

reservation -- réservation -- [ray-zehr-vah-see-YOHNG]

role -- rôle -- [‘role’]

scene -- scène -- [sehn]

special -- spécial -- [spay-see-YAHL]

supplement -- supplément -- [soo-play-MEHNT]

supreme -- suprême -- [sew-PREHM]

telephone -- téléphone -- [tay-lay-FOHN]

television -- télévision -- [tay-lay-vee-zee-YOHNG]

temperature -- température -- [tehm-pay-rah-TEWR]

theme -- thème -- [tehm]

video -- vidéo -- [vee-day-OH]

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Accent Mark on First Syllable in French

ENGLISH -- FRENCH -- [SAY]

eloquence -- éloquence -- [ay-loh-KAHNS]

equipment -- équipment -- [ay-keep-MAHNG]

decision -- décision -- [day-see-see-OHNG]

detour -- détour -- [day-TOOR]

deodorant -- déodorant -- [day-oh-doh-RAHNG]

metal -- métal -- [may-TAHL]

precipice -- précipice -- [pray-see-PEES]

present (time) -- présent -- [pray-ZAHNG]

president -- président -- [pray-zee-DAHNG]

region -- région -- [ray-zhee-OHNG]

residence -- résidence -- [ray-see-DAHNS]

zero -- zéro -- [zay-ROH]

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Accent Mark on Second Syllable in French

ENGLISH -- FRENCH -- [SAY]

appreciation -- appréciation -- [ahp-pray-see-ah-see-OHNG]

apprehension -- appréhension -- [ahp-pray-hehn-see-OHNG]

(movie) camera -- caméra -- [kah-may-RAH]

cinema -- cinéma -- [see-nay-MAH]

conference -- conférence -- [kohn-fay-RAHNS]

difference -- différence -- [deef-fay-RAHNS]

experience -- expérience -- [eks-pay-ree-YAHNS]

imbecile -- imbécile -- [am-bay-SEEL]

indecision -- indécision -- [an-day-see-see-OHNG]

interpretation -- interprétation -- [an-tehr-pray-tah-see-OHNG]

ocean -- océan -- [oh-say-AHNG]

opera -- opéra -- [oh-pay-RAH]

temperament -- tempérament -- [tehm-pay-rah-MAHNG]

temperature -- température -- [tahn-pay-ray-TOOR]

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French Words With Two Accent Marks

ENGLISH -- FRENCH -- [SAY]

elegance -- élégance -- [ay-lay-GAHNS]

elephant -- éléphant -- [ay-lay-FAHNG]

elevation -- élévation -- [ay-lay-vah-see-OHNG]

general -- général -- [zhay-nay-RAHL]

preference -- préférence -- [pray-fay-RAHNS]

recreation -- récréation -- [ray-kray-ah-see-OHNG]

severe -- sévère -- [say-VEHR]

telephone -- téléphone -- [tay-lay-FOHNG]

television -- télévision -- [tay-lay-vee-zee-YOHNG]

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French Signs with Cognates Having Accent Marks

ENGLISH -- FRENCH -- [SAY]

CAFE -- CAFÉ -- [‘cafe’]

RESERVATIONS -- RÉSERVATIONS -- [reh-sehr-vah-SYOHN]

TELEPHONE -- TÉLÉPHONE -- [tay-lay-FOHN]

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This lesson lists only cognates spelled exactly alike except for the accent marks in French.

(There are more accented cognates spelled alike, and many more spelled slightly differently.)

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A STORY YOU CAN READ IN FRENCH WITH ACCENT MARKS

You Can Read this Easy French Story:

You will be able to read and understand the following story in French because of the many words that look like English.

It will be clear to you even though written in a foreign language.

You will understand the meanings of the main words, so you will be able to figure out the meanings of the other French words.

(The only tip you need is that Je or J' means "I".)

In this Dual Language story, with parallel texts in each language, each line of French is printed above the English version, to make your beginning French reading as painless as possible.

The foreign version is placed first to encourage you to look for and recognize foreign words similar to ones in English -- and deduce what the foreign words mean by yourself without being given the translation first.

However, try to read the French all the way through without looking at the English version. It's easy.

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Easy French Example Story You Can Read:

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MON HÔTEL EN FRANCE

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Je réside en France. I reside in France.

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Je réside dans un hôtel spécial.

I reside in a special hotel.

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Je déplore le décor de mon hôtel.

I deplore the decor of my hotel.

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Je déplore la prétention.

I deplore pretention.

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Je déplore la température extrême.

I deplore extreme temperature.

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Je désire un crédit.

I desire credit.

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Je persévere.

I persevere.

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Je récite une poème éloquent.

I recite an eloquent poem.

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NEXT EASY FRENCH -- LESSON 7 -- SPELLED DIFFERENTLY THAN ENGLISH



Return to Easy French Lessons.




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