French Consonants - Consonnes françaises

Detailed information on the pronunciation of each French consonant

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There are a few things to keep in mind when pronouncing French consonants.​

  • All but the French R are further forward in the mouth than their equivalents in English.
  • The tongue must remain tensed.
  • There is no initial aspiration when pronouncing French consonants (see specific letters for more information)
  • There is, however, a slight aspiration after pronouncing French consonants. In English, someone might say soup without opening his mouth at the end of the word, thus "swallowing" the last sound. In French, you must open your mouth to complete the word.

    French consonants can be classified in three ways:

    1. Voicing | Sonorité

       Unvoiced | Sourde
       The vocal cords do not vibrate (CH, F, K, P, S, T)

       Voiced | Sonore
       Vocal cords vibrate (all the rest)

    Note that many consonants have voiced/unvoiced equivalents (B/P, F/V, etc.)

    2. Manner of articulation | Manière d'articulation

       Plosive | Occlusive
       Passage of air is blocked to produce the sound (B, D, G, K, P, T)

       Constrictive | Fricative
       Passage of air is partially blocked (CH, F, J, R, S, V, Z)

       Liquid | Liquide
       Easily join to other consonants to make new sounds (L, R)

       Nasal | Nasale
       Passage of air is through both the nose and the mouth (GN, M, N, NG)

    3. Place of Articulation | Lieu d'articulation

       Bilabial | Bilabiale
       Lips touch to make sound (B, M, P)

       Labiodental | Labiodentale
       Top teeth touches lower lip to make sound (F, V)

       Dental | Dentale
       Tongue touches upper teeth to make sound (D, L, N, T)*

       Alveolar | Alvéolaire
       Tongue is near the front of the mouth (S, Z)

       The back of the tongue is near the palate (CH, GN, J)

       Velar | Vélaire
       The back of the tongue is against the back of the mouth/upper throat (G, K, NG, R)

    *The English equivalents of these consonants are alveolar.

    Summary: Classification of French Consonants

     Bilabial  Labiodental  Dental  Alveolar  Palatal  Velar
     vu   vu  vuvuvuvu
    PlosiveBP  DT    GK
    Constrictive     VF    ZSJCH   
    Liquid    L     R 
    NasalM   N   GN NG 
     v = voiced     u = unvoiced