How to Pronounce the French 'EAU' and 'AU' (Same Sound)

Open your mouth, purse your lips, and remember 'eau de cologne'

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.

The Vowel Combinations 'eau' and 'au' Are Pronounced the Same

So we're actually talking about one sound for all these vowel combinations.

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.")

Pronouncing French Words With 'eau'

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)

More Words With 'eau, eaux, au, aux' 

The 'eau, eaux, au, 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)

Practice Sentences

1. Je vais au restaurant. 

("I'm going to the restaurant.")

2. 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.")

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Lawless, Laura K. "How to Pronounce the French 'EAU' and 'AU' (Same Sound)." ThoughtCo, Jul. 25, 2017, thoughtco.com/eau-french-pronunciation-1369554. Lawless, Laura K. (2017, July 25). How to Pronounce the French 'EAU' and 'AU' (Same Sound). Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/eau-french-pronunciation-1369554 Lawless, Laura K. "How to Pronounce the French 'EAU' and 'AU' (Same Sound)." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/eau-french-pronunciation-1369554 (accessed January 20, 2018).