How to Pronounce the Letter 'T' in French

french woman drinking tea on balcony

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It's important to learn the proper pronunciations as you're studying French and it all begins with the alphabet. While the letter 'T' may seem like an easy one, your tongue may tell you differently. This lesson will show you how the English and French 'T' differ and give you some good words to practice with.

Pronouncing the French Letter 'T'

The letter 'T' in French is fairly straightforward as it is pronounced more or less like the English 'T.' The difference is that in French, it is pronounced with the tongue against the upper teeth, rather than behind them, as in the English T.

When found in the combination 'TH,' the sound remains the same as for the lone 'T.' For example, le thé sounds much like its English word, "tea." A word like le théâtre (theater) is just a little different, but similar.

When 'T' Becomes 'TI'

There is another letter combination in which the pronunciation changes. This is 'TI' as in the adjectives timide (shy) and tiède (tepid, mild). Can you hear the difference?

  • When followed by a vowel, 'TI' sounds like [sy]. You can hear this in the word un(e) réceptionniste (receptionist).
  • When 'TI' is followed by a consonant, the 'T' and 'I' follow their own rules. For example, ultime (final, ultimate).

French Words with T

The most difficult part of learning to pronounce the French 'T' is probably going to be the tongue movement. Use these three very simple words to train your tongue when you're speaking in French. Notice how each has two T's? All the better for practicing.