How Is 'O' Pronounced in French?

Oh, You'll Do Great With This French Lesson

As you study French, you will find that there are many ways to pronounce the letter 'O.' It is a very useful vowel and takes on different sounds depending on its accent, where it is in a syllable, and what letters are next to it.

It sounds complicated but is relatively easy once you break it down. This French lesson will guide you through the correct pronunciation of 'O' in its many uses.

How to Pronounce the French 'O'

The French letter 'O' is pronounced one of two ways:

  1. The "closed O" is pronounced like the 'O' in "cold."
  2. The "open O" sounds more or less like the 'O' in the English word "ton."

The rules for determining which pronunciation to use are fairly complicated, so only the most important ones are listed here. When in doubt, always check in the dictionary.

  • When the 'O' has an accent cironflexe - ô -, it's a closed 'O.'
  • When the 'O' is the last sound of the syllable as in trop, mot, and héros, it's a closed 'O.'
  • When the 'O' is followed by a consonant sound as in notre and téléphone, it's an open 'O.' That is unless the consonant sound is a 'Z' sound as in rose and chose, in which case it's a closed 'O.'

The letter combinations 'AU' and 'EAU' are also pronounced like a closed 'O.'

Practice With These Words

It's time to put your understanding of the 'O' in French to the test. Review the rules above as you examine and try to pronounce each word. Remember that they're not necessarily like the English words, so be careful with the first two.

Once you think you have the correct pronunciation, click on the word to see if you're right. These are simple words to add to your French vocabulary, so take as much time as you need.

Letter Combinations

The 'O' is much like the 'I' in French in that these two vowels are rather complex. With both, the sound changes as they are paired with other letters. If you see an 'O' in any of these combinations, you'll know how to pronounce it if you take the time to study this list.

  • IO - Pronounced [yo] with a closed 'O' sound as used in attention! (Watch out! Warning!) and un million (one million)
  • OE - Often pronounced similarly to 'EU,' which is much like the 'U' in "full." However, this one's tricky and may require a dictionary.
  • ŒIL - A form of 'EUI' that is used at the beginning of a word, it sounds like the 'OO' in "good" followed by a 'Y' sound.
  • OI - Pronounced [wa].
  • ON - Called the "nasal O," it is pronounced [o(n)]. The 'O' is pronounced like ô (see above) and the (n) has the nasal sound. For instance, onze (eleven) and un citron (lemon).
  • OU - Sounds like the 'OU' in "soup."
  • OUIL - Pronounced [uj].
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Your Citation
Team, ThoughtCo. "How Is 'O' Pronounced in French?" ThoughtCo, Dec. 6, 2021, Team, ThoughtCo. (2021, December 6). How Is 'O' Pronounced in French? Retrieved from Team, ThoughtCo. "How Is 'O' Pronounced in French?" ThoughtCo. (accessed March 28, 2023).

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