French (français) is a Romance language originating in France but spoken in many other parts of Europe including Southern Belgium (Wallonia and Brussels), Western Switzerland, Monaco and Luxembourg. In North America, French is spoken primarily in Quebec, New Brunswick, Ontario and parts of Manitoba but is present in almost every other province in Canada. Although Canada is a bilingual nation, French is spoken by a minority of citizens in all the other provinces and territories. It is also found in parts of the United States, primarily in the state of Louisiana and the northern part of the states of Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. Other countries speaking French include former French colonies in North Africa and West Africa; in Haiti, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Saint Barthelemy and Saint Martin in the Caribbean; in French Guiana in South America; in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia in Southeast Asia; in New Caledonia, Tahiti and numerous other islands in the Indian Ocean and in Oceania. It has long been the language of international diplomacy and communication, and although largely supplanted by English since World War II, it remains de rigueur (of obligatory requirement) for educated people in many societies around the world to have some level of basic French ability. It is also an official language of the UN and the EU.
There are many differences between French spoken in Québec and that spoken in France. One is state and one is king french. The two main differences are that Québec has retained many 18th & 19th century French words, while French spoken in France has incorporated many English words. Furthermore, aside from Europe & Québec, many French-speaking regions have incorporated many local words or formed a distinctive dialect/language known as creole.
Francophonie can help you locate French-speaking regions.
Like that of English, unlike almost all the other Romance languages, French spelling is not very phonetic. The same letter used in two different words can make two different sounds, and many letters are not pronounced at all. In general, it's not impossible to sound out words, but suffice it to say that many experienced non-native French speakers(and even some native speakers) mispronounce words often.
One thing to note is that final consonants of a word are usually dropped: allez (go) is pronounced ahl-AY, not ahl-AYZ; tard (late) is pronounce tar, not tard. But if the next word begins with a vowel, the consonant may be pronounced; this is called liaison. A final 'e' is also usually silent if the word has more than one syllable, except in parts of southern France, especially Toulouse.
Stress is fairly even in French, but the stress almost always falls on the last syllable.
For many French words, it is impossible to write something which, when pronounced as English, sounds like the French word. Use the transliteration as a guide to liaison and the French spelling to pronounce the vowels.
Vowels in French can have accent marks, which generally have no noticeable impact on pronunciation, but they often distinguish between homophones in writing (ou, meaning or, and où, meaning where, are pronounced the same). The only really important one is é, which is always pronounced "ay", and changes the meaning of the word.a, à like "a" in "fat" â like "a" in "father" e in most cases a central neutral vowel ("schwa") like "a" in "about", sometimes not pronounced at all, sometimes like "é" or "è" é, è, ê, ai, -er, -es, -ez é is towards "e" in "set" or "ay" in "day", and è is more nasal, like the a in "cake" in English, except without the "y" sound at the end. They are not equivalent and they make very distinct sounds. i, î like "ee" in "see" but shorter and tenser o, ô, au, eau generally like "oa" in "boat" in American English or "aw" in "law" in British English, can be considered equivalent u, ù like a very tight, frontal "oo" sound (purse your lips as if to pronounce "oo" as in "soon" but try to pronounce "ee") - uu in transcriptions ou like "oo" in "food", but a pure vowel y like "ee" in "see" ; also sometimes used as a consonant, pronounced the same as in English (in 'yes' for example). eu between "ew" in "dew" and "ur" in "burp"; written eu or uh in transcriptions
Semi-vowelsoi like "wa" in "walk" oui like "wee" in "week" ui like "wee" in "week", but with a French u instead of the w œ a bit like "eu" but more "open". The distinction between œ and "eu" is very subtle and often irrelevant.
Note: Most final consonants are silent except for c, q, f, l, and r (except in the combination "-er", normally found in verb infinitives). Note that the plural ending "-ent" for verbs is never pronounced, though it is pronounced in other words.b like "b" in "bed" c like "k" in "sky" (before "a", "o", and "u" or before a consonent), like "s" in "sun" (before "e", "i", and "y") ç like "s" in "sun" (this letter can only be written before "a" ,"o", or "u") d like "d" in "death" (but a bit heavier than in English, and pronounced on the tongue) f like "f" in "fun" g like "g" in "go" (before "a", "o", and "u" or before a consonent), like "g" in "sabotage" (before "e", "i" and "y"). gu like "g" in "goose" (before "e", "i", "y") gn like "ny" in "canyon". This is particularly difficult when followed by oi, as in baignoire (beh-NYWAR) "bathtub". h usually silent, but may sometimes prevent a liaison with the former word j like "g" in "sabotage" k like "k" in "sky" (not native to French) l, ll like "l" in "like"; some exceptions for "ll" in the combination "ille" (pronounced ee-y) m like "m" in "me" n like "n" in "nurse" (but see Nasals below) p like "p" in "sport" q(u) most of the time like "k" in "sky" (not like "qu" in "square"); in some words like "qu" in "square" (generally before an "a") or the same but with a French u (generally before an "i") r guttural; kind of like coughing up a hairball (similar to a German "ch") s like "s" in "sun"; like "z" in "zero" (between two vowels) ch like "sh" in "bush"; sometimes like "k" in "sky" (in words of Greek origin mostly) t, th like "t" in "stop" v like "v" in "value" w only in foreign words, mostly like "w" in "wise" and sometimes like "v" in "value" (in particular, "wagon" is "vagon" and "WC" is "VC"!) x either ks (like "x" in "exit") or gz z like "z" in "zero" ph like "f" in "fun" and like "ph" in "Philadelphia"
Nasalsan, en, em in standard French, like "an" in "croissant" and in Quebec French, like "uh" in "uh-huh" (not always pronounced as a nasal, especially if the n or m is doubled: emmental is pronounced as a normal "emm" sound) on nasal ô - distinguishing between this and "an" is tricky, it's a deeper, more closed sound in, ain in standard French, like "uh" in "uh-huh" and in Quebec French, like "ain" in "rain" un nasal eu (pronounced the same as 'in' in Parisian French)
Diphthongsail like "i" in "fight" ill either literally, or like "y" in "three years", with some exceptions (ville is veel, fille is feey)
- When there is an accent mark on "e", it prevents diphthongs. Letters should be pronounced separately, following the rule for the accented letter. Example: énergumène, (rowdy character), réunion (meeting).
- A diaeresis (") may also be used to prevent diphthongs on "e", "u" and "i". Example: maïs (Indian corn or maize).
- In the combinations "gue" and "gui", the "u" should not be pronounced: it is there only to force the prononciation of "g" as in "go". If the "u" is pronounced, a diaeresis is added on the 2nd vowel : aiguë (sharp).
- In the combination "geo", the "e" should not be pronounced, it is only there to force the prononciation of "g" as in "sabotage" (in the case the "e" should be pronounced, it is indicated with an accent mark as in géologie).
Note you should not pronounce the "G" where "NG" is used in the prononciation hint.
ProblemsLeave me alone. Laissez-moi tranquille! (less-ay mwah trahn-KEEL!) Buzz off. Dégage! (day-GAHZH!) / Va t'en! (va TAHN) / Décâlisse ! (day-kaw-LISSE) Don't touch me! Ne me touchez pas! (nuh muh TOOSH-ay PAH!) I'm calling the police. J'appelle la police. (zhah-PELL la poh-LEES) Police! Police! (poh-LEES) Stop! Rapist! Arrêtez! Au viol! (ah-reh-TAY! oh vee-YOL!) Stop! Thief! Arrêtez! Au voleur! (ah-reh-TAY! oh vo-LEUR!) Help! Au secours! (oh suh-KOOR!) Fire! Au feu! (oh FUH!) I need your help. Aidez-moi, s'il vous plaît! (aih-day MWAH, SEEL voo PLEH!) It's an emergency. C'est une urgence! (seh tuun uur-ZHAHNS) I'm lost. Je suis perdu. (ZHUH swee pehr-DUU') I've lost my bag. J'ai perdu mon sac. (zhay pehr-DUU mohn SAK) I've lost my wallet. J'ai perdu mon portefeuille. (zhay pehr-DUU mohn POHR-tuh-fuhy) I'm sick. Je suis malade. (zhuh swee mah-LAD) I've been injured. Je me suis blessé. (zhuh muh swee bleh-SAY) I was raped. Je suis violé(e). (zhuh swee vee-yol-ay)
NOTE: Only use literally, French doesn't use rape in the "I was raped by him in tennis" sense.I need a doctor. J'ai besoin d'un médecin. (zhay buh-ZWAHN dun may-TSAN) Can I use your phone/mobile phone? Puis-je utiliser votre téléphone/portable? (pwee zhuh uu-tee-lee-ZAY vot-ruh tay-lay-FONE/por-tahb-le) What is it? Qu'y a-t-il? (kee ah-TEEL)
Numbers1 un/une (uhn)/(uun) 2 deux (duh) 3 trois (trwah) 4 quatre (kahtr) 5 cinq (sank) 6 six (sees) 7 sept (set) 8 huit (weet) 9 neuf (neuf) 10 dix (deece) 11 onze (onz) 12 douze (dooz) 13 treize (trez) 14 quatorze (kat-ORZ) 15 quinze (kangz) 16 seize (sez) 17 dix-sept (dees-SET) 18 dix-huit (dee-ZWEET) 19 dix-neuf (deez-NUF) 20 vingt (vang) 21 vingt-et-un (vang-tay-UHN) 22 vingt-deux (vant-DUH) 23 vingt-trois (vant-TRWAH) 30 trente (trahnt) 40 quarante (ka-RAHNT) 50 cinquante (sang-KAHNT) 60 soixante (swah-SAHNT) 70 soixante-dix (swah-sahnt-DEES) septante (sep-TAHNT) in Belgium and Switzerland 80 quatre-vingt (kah-truh-VANG) in Belgium also huitante (weet-AHNT) in Switzerland (except Geneva) octante (oct-AHNT) in Switzerland 90 quatre-vingt-dix (kah-truh-vang-DEES) nonante (noh-NAHNT) in Belgium and Switzerland 100 cent (sahng) 200 deux cent (duh sahng) 300 trois cent (trwah sahng) 1000 mille (meel) 2000 deux mille (duh meel) 1,000,000 un million (ung mee-LYOHN) Note: treated as a noun when alone: one million euros would be un million d'euros. number _____ (train, bus, etc.) numéro _____ (nuu-may-ROH) half demi (duh-MEE), moitié (mwah-tee-AY) less moins (mwihn) more plus (pluus) / no more : plus (pluu) so this time, the "S" is mute
Timenow maintenant (mant-NAHNG) later plus tard (plew TAHR) before avant (ah-VAHNG) after après (ah-PREH) morning le matin (luh mah-TANG) in the morning au matin (oh mah-TANG) dans la matinée (dahn lah mah-tee-NAY) afternoon l'après-midi (lah-preh-mee-DEE) in the afternoon à l'après-midi (ah lah-preh-mee-DEE) evening le soir (luh SWAHR) in the evening dans la soirée (dahn lah swah-RAY) au soir (oh SWAHR) night la nuit (lah NWEE) in the night à la nuit (ah lah NWEE) Clock time
(Note on time: the French use the 24 hour clock, with midnight being 0h00 (note that, except on digital clocks, in France an 'h' is used as a separator between hours and minutes as opposed to a colon in many other countries). However, the 12-hour clock is making some inroads and saying 1-11 in the afternoon or evening will be understood.hour heure (ur) minute minute (mee-NUUT) From 1-30 past the hour / ___ plus ___ [hour] + plus (pluu') + [number] Example: 10h20 dix heure plus vignt (deez er pluu VAGN) For 1-29 until the hour / __ 'til ___ [next hour] + moins (mwan) quarter quart/le quart (KAHR/luh KAHR) 7h15 = sept heures et quart (set er eh luh KAHR) 16h45 = dix sept heures moins le quart (deez SET er mwan luh KAHR) half-past : demie (duh-MEE); demi (after midnight or noon, duh-MEE) 10h30 = dix heure et demie (deez er eh duh-MEE) one o'clock AM, 1h00 une heure du matin (uun er duu ma-TAN) two o'clock AM, 2h00 deux heures du matin (dooz er duu ma-TAN) noon, 12h00 midi (mee-DEE) one o'clock PM, 13h00 treize heure (traiyz er) une heure de l'après-midi (uun er duh la-preh-mee-DEE) two o'clock PM, 14h00 quatorze heure (KAH-torz er) deux heures de l'après-midi (duz er duh la-preh-mee-DEE) six o'clock PM, 18h00 dix-huit heure (deez-weet ER) six heures du soir (sees er dew SWAR) half past seven, 19h30 sept heures et demi (SET er eh duh-MEE) dix-neuf heures trente (DEE-znuf er TRAHNT) midnight 0h00 minuit (mee-NWEE) Duration _____ minute(s) _____ minute(s) (mee-NUUT) _____ hour(s) _____ heure(s) (er) _____ day(s) _____ jour(s) (zhoor) _____ week(s) _____ semaine(s) (suh-MEN) _____ month(s) _____ mois (mwa) _____ year(s) _____ an(s) (ahng), année(s) (ah-NAY) daily quotidienne (ko-tee-DYEN) weekly hebdomadaire (eb-doh-ma-DAIYR) monthly mensuel (mang-suu-WEL) yearly annuel (ah-nuu-WEL) Days today aujourd'hui (oh-zhoor-DWEE) yesterday hier (ee-yair) tomorrow demain (duh-MANG) this week cette semaine (set suh-MEN) last week la semaine dernière (lah suh-MEN dehr-NYAIR) next week la semaine prochaine (lah suh-MEN praw-SHEN)
Note: French calendars normally start on Monday.Monday lundi (luhn-DEE) Tuesday mardi (mahr-DEE) Wednesday mercredi (mehr-kruh-DEE) Thursday jeudi (juh-DEE) Friday vendredi (vahn-druh-DEE) Saturday samedi (sahm-DEE) Sunday dimanche (dee-MAHNGSH)
Note: Like other romance languages, nouns in french are either "masculine" or "feminine" and adjectives vary accordingly.black noir/noire (nwahr) white blanc/blanche (blahng/blahnsh) gray gris/grise (gree/greez) red rouge (roozh) blue bleu/bleue (bluh) yellow jaune (zhohn) green vert/verte (vair/vairt) orange orange (aw-RAHNGZH) purple violet/violette (vyaw-LEH/vyaw-LET) brown brun/brune (bruhn/brewn) or marron (MAH-rohn) pink rose (rohz)