French Pronunciation Practice (with a REAL French speaker): é vs è

Want to work on your spoken French but don’t have anybody to practice with? Don’t worry. I’m here to help!

To see fast improvement in your ability to speak and understand French, the best thing you can do is focus on learning the specifics of spoken French — and that’s exactly what I focus on here at Comme une Française.

So, join me in today’s lesson for some pronunciation practice.

C’est parti!

1 – é or è?
2 – The problems with “é” and “è”!
3 – Practice with me!

1 – é or è?

French letters can be frustrating.
For instance, these two letters [é / è]. They don’t look or sound very different, yet they represent two separate vowel sounds.

1 – é
The first one is é: with l’accent aigu, the mark on top of the letter going right and up. You pronounce it with a smile!

2 – è
The other one is è: with l’accent grave, the mark going right and down. You pronounce it with a more open mouth.

Can you hear the difference?
OK, that wasn’t so hard, was it? Now, let’s try with real examples. For each of these few words, try to hear if I pronounce the sound é or è.


  • Une fée = a fairy [é]
    Un fait = a fact [è]
  • La mairie = the town hall [é]
    La mer = the sea [è]
  • Le danger = danger [é]
  • Tu es là ? = Are you here? [è] or
    Tu es là ? (= Are you here?) [é], sounds like Tuez la ! = Kill her! [é]

2 – The problems with “é” and “è”! It doesn’t make sense!

There are two main problems with the sounds “é” and “è” in French.

1. They can be spelled in many different ways.
But you’ve been learning French for some time already, so you know many exceptions are everywhere!

2. The second problem is that many French speakers, depending on their accent and where they grew up in France, will pronounce some “è” sounds like “é”. And many small words are pronounced indifferently “é” or “è”.

Tu es [pronouncer “tu é / tu è”, pareil pour les autres] = You are
Il est = he is
Des = several
Les = the
Le lait = milk, etc.

So it’s all blurry… except for some cases where you must pronounce it correctly!

Some rules help you know when it’s not up to you when you have to pronounce “é” or “è”.

You have to pronounce “é” in:

  • Bonne année ! = Happy New Year!
  • Tu vas manger ça ? = Are you going to eat this?

And you have to make the “è” sound in:

  • Quelle fête ! = What a party!

For instance, we pronounce “é” only when:
– It’s written with l’accent aigu : é, as in Bonne année ! = Happy New Year!
– It’s the end of an infinitive verb in -er, like manger = to eat, or aller = to go.
– It’s the word Et (= And), or other specifics like le pied = the foot or chez = at.

On the other hand, we pronounce a syllable exclusively like “è” when :
– It’s written with l’accent grave: è, especially for feminine nouns like une boulangère = a woman baker, une jardinière = a woman gardener.
– It’s written with l’accent circonflexe “ê”: une forêt = a forest, or une fête = a party.
– It’s an “e” before a double consonant: une Parisienne = a Parisian woman, or la guerre = war.
– Some exceptions when -er is pronounced “èrre”, mainly: la mer = the sea, l’hiver = winter

Click here to learn more:
French Pronunciation Fundamentals – é, è and “eu.”

Let’s recap:
1. “é” and “è” are two different sounds in French. They both have several different spellings.
2. We can use one or the other in many words without a problem.
3. Sometimes, we have to use one of them specifically. Otherwise, it does sound weird. But:
4. Don’t worry too much about sounding weird anyway.

French people will understand what you’re saying. You’re not going to make embarrassing mistakes because of it. It’s just your accent, and we accept it. Everyone has one.
But what’s important is that you can hear the difference between “é” and “è”, so you can have that tool to help you understand fast-spoken French when needed!

3 – Practice with me !

Let’s practice it together right now! Repeat after me: è/é.

  • Le Père Noël = Santa Claus [è] [è].
  • L’épicier = the grocer [é] [é]
  • C’est une belle journée pour marcher. = It’s a beautiful day to go for a walk. [è for “c’est”]
    And now: C’est une belle journée pour marcher. [é for c’est]
    For C’est = it is, we can use “é” or “è” interchangeably, which is easier to pronounce.
  • J’ai un bon métier. = I have a good profession. [é]
    and then : J’ai un bon métier. . [è fo “ai”]
    “Jé” and “Jè” are both acceptable to say “I have”.

Now you can pay attention to French pronunciation and how French people use “é” or “è” in real-life conversations on TV or in movies!

That’s the kind of exercise you’ll also find in my longer courses, with programs from intermediate to advanced, such as French Conversation with Confidence, French Vocabulary & Pronunciation – or the 30-Day French Challenges almost every month! They’re all enjoyable, with our lovely community of open francophiles, and they’re designed to help you find confidence whatever life in France throws at you.

Here are the links:

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!


→ If you enjoyed this lesson (and/or learned something new) – why not share this lesson with a francophile friend? You can talk about it afterwards! You’ll learn much more if you have social support from your friends 🙂


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