An accent mark may change the sound of a letter, the meaning of a word, replace a letter that existed in old French, or have no perceivable effect at all. Accents are used only on vowels and under the letter c.

  • An accent aigu ( ) is only used on an e (é) and produces the sound ay, as in “day.” It may also replace an s from old French. When you see this letter, replace the é with an imaginary s to see if its meaning becomes more evident.

    é tranger = stranger

  • An accent grave (`) may be used on an à or ù where it causes no sound change, or on an è, producing the sound of eh as in the e in “get.”

  • An accent circonflexe (∧) may be placed on any vowel but causes no perceptible sound change. It, too, often replaces a “s” from old French, which may give a clue to the meaning of the word.

    forêt = forest

  • A cédille ( ) is placed under a “c” (ç), to create a soft (s) sound before the letters a, o, or u.

    ç a (sah)

  • A tréma ( ) is placed on the second of two consecutive vowels to indicate that each vowel is pronounced independently.

    Noël (noh‐ ehl)