More French Pronunciation Practice (with a Parisian)!

If you’re trying to speak French by reading written French, you probably struggle with pronunciation. It’s not your fault! School French focuses on formal, written French, with little time for nasal sounds or other pronunciation tricks. Luckily, we focus on spoken French here at Comme une Française. So, let’s do some pronunciation practice together, shall we?

C’est parti!

1 – Hearing the difference between U or OU.
2 – The problems with “U” and “OU”!
3 – Practice with me!

1 – Hearing the difference between U or OU.

La rue = the street.
La roue = the wheel.

Can you hear the difference?

It’s the first step that you need. The French “u” can be hard to pronounce, but simply hearing the difference between “u” and “ou” will already improve your French comprehension by a lot.

That’s why I always take time to break down both slang vocabulary and important pronunciation in my programs like the 30-Day French Challenge, where we go over French culture and vocabulary with a new fun challenge every day, like dialogues in everyday French, pronunciation overviews, games, or quizzes to make sure you’re actually learning something.

So today, we’ll practice pronouncing and hearing the “u” and “ou” sounds.

For example, which one do you hear in each of these examples, “U” or “OU”?

  • Il est sourd. = He’s deaf.
    Il est sûr. = He’s sure.
  • La mûre = the blackberry
    L’amour = love
  • Une femme russe = A Russian woman
    Une femme rousse = A red-haired woman
  • Dessus = Over
    Dessous = Under
  • Un bureau = an office.
    Un bourreau = a torturer.
  • La bûche = the log.
    La bouche = the mouth.
  • Un pull = a pullover.
    Une poule = a hen.
  • Pur = pure.
    Pour = for.

2 – The problems with “U” and “OU”!

As you probably noticed, the problem isn’t only that the French “u” is hard to pronounce. The issue is that if you hear “ou” instead of “u,” or if your pronunciation is confused, it can mean a different word.

So let’s quickly recap the pronunciation here:

Ou” (/u/) sounds like a longer “oo” sound from “foot.”
U” (/y/) doesn’t exist in English.
When you pronounce “ou,” your lips are rounded, your mouth is almost completely closed, and your tongue is in the back. When you pronounce “u,” it’s the same, except your tongue is much more in front. It should press against your teeth.

Now you can pronounce the difference in similar-sounding words, like

  • vous = plural “you.”
    vu = seen.
  • C’est vous ? = Is that you?
  • J’ai vu. = I’ve seen it, I’m aware.
  • Ça, c’est tout vous. = “That’s all you,” literally, or “That’s totally your style.
  • Ça, c’est tout vu. = “It’s all seen,” literally, or “It’s all decided.
  • Vous avez vu ? = Have you seen that?

A potentially embarrassing mistake arises with

  • Nous = we, us.
    Nu (nue) (nus) = naked, nude.
    Nous, on est contents. = We are happy.
    Nus, on est contents. = We are happy when we’re naked.
  • Le cou = the neck.
    Le cul = the ass.
    Tu as un beau cou. = You have a beautiful neck.
    Tu as un beau cul. = You have a nice ass.

Don’t forget that French words have different spellings for both sounds.

Different spellings for the “OU” sound:

  • “OU”: nous = we, us.
  • “OÙ”: = where.
  • “OÛ”: coûter = to cost.
  • “AOU”: saoul = drunk.
  • Words coming from English: le foot, le clown, le pudding.

Different spellings for the “U” sound:

  • “U”: détendu = relaxed.
  • “Û”: sûr = sure.
  • “Ü”: ambigüe = ambiguous.
  • “EU” exceptionally in the past participle of the verb “AVOIR”: eu = had.

The French vowel “U” is silent after a “G” and a “Q”.

1. Q + U

magique = magical.
quand = when.
la quantité = quantity.

2. G + U

une guerre = a war.
une guirlande = a garland.
une guêpe = a wasp.

3 – Practice with me !

I’m going to pronounce some short French sentences we could use in common spoken French. Listen to the syllables, and repeat after. Even if you don’t understand what it means, you can hear the syllables I use.

  • Tu l’as vu ?= Did you see him?
  • es-tu ? = Where are you?
  • Vous êtes ? = Where are you?
  • Elle t’a eu ! = She got you, there!
    Attention: The past participle of the verb “avoir” – EU – sounds just like “U.” This is an exception.
  • C’est pour nous. = It’s for us, we’ll have that.
  • Vous avez bu. = You had a few drinks.
  • Tu es au bout. = You’re at the end.
  • Sous = under.
  • Su = known (the past participle of the verb “savoir”)
  • Doux = sweet, soft, gentle.
  • Dû = required.
  • Ça pue. = It stinks.
  • Un pou = a louse.

Since you’re comfortable with these short sentences, let’s practice something slightly more complex.

  • Je suis sûre qu’il est sourd. = I’m sure he’s deaf. [sûre / sourd.]
  • Julie trouve que Luc est relou. = Julie finds that Luc is annoying. [slang]
    Vous avez relu jusqu’au bout ?= Did you reread it until the very end? [“relu” vs “relou”]
  • Dans le futur, les ours iront sûrement plus souvent vers le Sud. = In the future, bears will probably go South more often.

And finally, try your hand with some special, trickier sentences with a short story. I’ll give you some time for each sentence to listen to the different sounds. Repeat after me.

  1. Loulou et Lulu ont perdu leurs doudous.
    Loulou and Lulu have lost their cuddly toys.
  2.  La peluche de Loulou est une tortue, elle est ?
    Loulou’s plush toy is a turtle; where is it?
  3. Le doudou de Lulu est un loup, tu l’as vu ?
    Lulu’s cuddly toy is a wolf. Have you seen it?
  4. Avoue, tu sais sont la tortue de Loulou et le loup de Lulu.
    Admit it, you know where Loulou’s turtle and Lulu’s wolf are.
  5. Ah, j’avais pas vu, la tortue et le loup sont juste sur mes genoux, sous les coussins tout doux. C’est fou !
    Ah, I hadn’t noticed. The turtle and the wolf are right on my knees, under the soft cushions. That’s surprising!

If you’re watching this lesson for the first time, you can take your time and practice again.

Or you can keep watching to get your next session of French Pronunciation Practice with me!

Click here to get your next lesson:

À tout de suite.
I’ll see you right now in the next video!


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