U - French Pronunciation of U

How is U pronounced in French?

Business people shaking hands in a restaurant
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The French letter U is one of the two most difficult sounds in French for most people. (R is the other one.)

The unaccented U and the U with an accent circonflexe Û or tréma Ü are all pronounced the same way: with the lips tightly pursed: listen.

There is no equivalent sound in English, so for this letter more than any other is is essential to get help from a native French speaker. In the meantime, take a look at step-by-step instructions on how to pronounce the French U.

French Words with U

Click on the links below to hear the words pronounced in French:

   lecture   (reading)

   autobus   (bus)

   chuchoter   (to whisper)

   musique   (music)

   sucre   (sugar)

   résumer   (to summarize)

   jupe   (skirt)

   tu   (you)

Letter combinations with U (click for detailed lessons)
   AU  |  EAU  |  EU  |  EUIL  |  OU  |  OUIL  |  UE  |  UEIL  |  UI  |  UIL  |  UN

Also see OU vs U

Many French students have trouble with the letter U. Follow these step-by-step instructions to learn how to pronounce the French U.

Difficulty: average

Time required: a few minutes a day

Here's How

  1. Open your mouth.
  2. Say O.
  3. Draw out the O until your lips are where they would be to make a W sound.
  4. Purse your lips as tightly as you can.
  5. Keeping your lips pursed, say E.
  6. Voilà the French U!

Tips

  • The French U sound does not exist in English. The closest sound we have in English is OU as in soup, but unfortunately the French have that sound as well with their OU. You must be able to tell these sounds apart.
  • The U sound is always spelled U and the OU sound is always spelled OU, so they are easy to tell apart in writing.
  • Practice the distinction between U and OU with this exercise.
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Lawless, Laura K. "U - French Pronunciation of U." ThoughtCo, Apr. 7, 2017, thoughtco.com/french-pronunciation-of-u-1369595. Lawless, Laura K. (2017, April 7). U - French Pronunciation of U. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/french-pronunciation-of-u-1369595 Lawless, Laura K. "U - French Pronunciation of U." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/french-pronunciation-of-u-1369595 (accessed December 13, 2017).