Learn to Correctly Pronounce the French Words 'Au' and 'Eau'

Water Form
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Many languages, including French, have words that are spelled differently yet pronounced the same way. Two of the most common of these words in French are eau and au. Eau is a noun meaning "water" in English, and au is the definite article "the." These letters also function as a common vowel combination, producing the same phonetic sound.

Pronunciation Guide

The French vowel combinations in "eau" (singular) and "eaux" ('plural') are pronounced like the closed O sound, similar to the English pronunciation of "eau" in eau de cologne but more elongated. The French letter combinations "​au" (singular) and "aux" (plural) are pronounced exactly the same way.

It's important to master this sound because it appears in so many French words. When pronouncing the sound, the lips are pursed to actually form the shape of an "o." This physical component is key to correct French pronunciation. Remember, to speak in French, you have to open your mouth—much more than we do in English. So allez-y. ("Go ahead.")

Click on the links below to hear the words pronounced in French:

  •    eau   (water)
  •    beau   (handsome, beautiful)
  •    cadeau   (gift)
  •    agneau   (lamb) Listen closely: The 'g" is not pronounced, so you must say "ah-nyo.")
  •    beaucoup   (a lot)
  •    bureau   (office, desk)
  •    chapeau    (hat)

Expand Your Vocabulary

The vowel combinations eau, eaux, au, and aux in the words below are pronounced exactly the same as in the words above. Click on any of the links above to remind yourself exactly how these letter combinations are pronounced. As you recall, they are all pronounced exactly the same.

  • gâteau (cake)
  • bateau (boat)
  • châteaux (castles)
  • auto (car)
  • mauvais (bad)
  • chaud (hot)
  • cauchemar (nightmare)
  • restaurant (restaurant)
  • chevaux (horses)
  • journaux (newspapers)

Examples:

  • Je vais au restaurant.  > "I'm going to the restaurant."
  • Je mets mon beau chapeau sur le bateau qui flotte sur l'eau et qui part au Portugal où il fait chaud. > "I put my beautiful hat on the boat which floats on the water and which is leaving for Portugal where it is hot."