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)

   Palatal
   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

v = voiced     u = unvoiced

Bilabial
(v)
Bilabial
(u)

Labiodental
(v)
Labiodental
(u)

Dental
(v)
Dental
(u)

Alveolar
(v)
Alveolar
(u)

Palatal
(v)
Patalal
(u)

Velar
(v)
Velar
(u)

Plosive B P D T G K
Constrictive V F Z S J CH
Liquid L R
Nasal M N GN NG