French accents

For a beginner in a new language, accents can perhaps look a bit daunting.

In fact, apart from ç (c cedilla – see below) the three main accents (here shown with e, as being the most used):

è = e grave (also grave in English), ê = e circonflexe (circumflex in English), é = e aigu (acute in English). These three (and ç) are by far the most used accents in French.

TIP: an easy way to access é on a UK keyboard: hold down the Alt gr key (bottom row on my keyboard) while typing e, and you will get é with minimum fuss. This also works for á but the only time you may need this, as far as I know, is in Spanish.

Otherwise, the way to access accented letters is to use the Insert option: in Word or WordPress (etc?) click on the ‘horseshoe/ace of clubs/old-fashioned hairstyle’ icon, then click on the symbol you need. This does not work in e-mail (unless you have a more advanced version than I have); my e-mail has no Insert symbols options so I can only manage é (using the Alt gr key as explained above).

ç : c cedilla. The cedilla under a c softens the c. eg pronounce it like an s and not like a k. This is usually necessary after an a an o or a u. For a long time I used to write ‘içi’ for ‘here’ but this is not right: c after an i is soft already.

I may have made this sound more complicated than it is: to sum up: the four main accents in French are: é ê è, and ç. There are a few others (î, ô, û etc)but they are not used as often.

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