How to Type French Accents

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Lawless, Laura K. "How to Type French Accents." ThoughtCo, Oct. 13, 2017, thoughtco.com/how-to-type-french-accents-1372770. Lawless, Laura K. (2017, October 13). How to Type French Accents. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/how-to-type-french-accents-1372770 Lawless, Laura K. "How to Type French Accents." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/how-to-type-french-accents-1372770 (accessed October 18, 2017).
hands typing on keyboard
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You don't need to buy a French keyboard or any software to type French accents. There are several different ways to type them on Windows, Apple, and Linux computers.

Typing French Accents in Windows

You have several options, based on your computer and current keyboard:

  • If you currently use the English-US keyboard layout, the international keyboard is far and away your best option for typing accents. It is not a separate keyboard, just a Windows setting.
  • If you use an English-UK keyboard, the UK extended keyboard is the best.
  • Your other options are the French keyboard, the Canadian French keyboard, and ALT codes.


Typing French Accents on an Apple

Depending on your OS, you can choose between:

  • Option key accents
  • KeyCaps
  • Special character palette
  • Setting the language of your OS to French

Windows: International Keyboard

For U.S. English keyboard users, the international keyboard (which is not a physical keyboard, but rather a simple Control Panel setting) is the easiest and most convenient method for typing French accents because it maintains the QWERTY layout, with just a few changes and additions:

  • To type accent grave (à, è, etc), type ` (to the left of 1) then the vowel.
  • Accent aigu (é), type ' (single quote) then e.
  • Cédille (ç), type ' then c.
  • Circonflexe (ê), type ^ (shift + 6) then e.
  • Tréma (ö), type " (shift + ') then o.
  • To type French quotation marks « » use ctrl + alt + [ and ], respectively.

Note: The minor disadvantage of the international keyboard is that when you want to type the "helping" character (e.g., single or double quotes) by itself rather than above a vowel, you have to type the symbol then hit the space bar. For example, to type c'est, type c then ' then hit the spacebar then type e s t. It takes a little while to get used to typing that extra space when you just want to type ' or "

Troubleshooting the international keyboard
If you are plagued by strangeness such as cést when you try to type c'est, re-read the note above.

In order to use the international keyboard to type French accents, you need to select that keyboard layout.

Windows: UK Extended

If you currently use a UK keyboard, you will probably find the UK extended keyboard the easiest way to type French accents. The keyboard layout will be maintained, but you can type most accents with the AltGr key, which is located to the right of the spacebar.

  • To type accent grave (à, è, etc), type ` (to the left of 1) then the vowel.
  • Accent aigu (é), click AltGr and e at the same time.
  • Cédille (ç), click AltGr and c at the same time.
  • Circonflexe (ê), click AltGr and ^ at the same time, then the vowel.
  • Tréma (ö) click AltGr and " at the same time, then the vowel.
In order to use the UK extended keyboard to type French accents, you need to select that keyboard layout.

Windows: French keyboard

French keyboard
French keyboard.

The layout of the French keyboard, known as AZERTY, is somewhat different than the layouts of other keyboards. If you're used to QWERTY, I recommend that you use the international keyboard.

Otherwise, with the French keyboard layout, you'll find - among other changes - that the A and Q have switched places, W and Z have switched, and M is where the semi-colon used to be. In addition, numbers require the shift key.

On the other hand, you can type the grave accent (à, è, ù) and acute accent (é) with a single key, and the other accented letters with a combination of two keys:

  • To type anything with a circumflex (â, ê, etc), type ^ then the vowel
  • For a tréma, (ä, ë, etc), type ¨ and the vowel
In order to use the French keyboard to type French accents, you need to select that keyboard layout.

Canadian French Keyboard

French Canadian keyboard
French Canadian keyboard.

The layout of this keyboard is similar to QWERTY, making it somewhat simpler if that is what you are used to (though I still believe that the international keyboard is better).

Typing accents on the Canadian French keyboard is fairly simple:

  • To type an acute accent (é), type ´ (next to the right-hand shift key) and then e
  • To type a grave accent (à, è, ù), type ' (apostrophe / single quote) then the vowel
  • The circumflex ˆ and tréma ¨ are in the upper-right corner, side by side next to the enter key
  • For ç, type ¸ (left of "enter") and then c
In order to use the Canadian French keyboard to type French accents, you need to select that keyboard layout.

Windows: Selecting a Keyboard Layout

In order to use one of these alternate keyboard layouts, you need to add it to Windows. Once you've done this, you can either set it as your default keyboard, or use alt plus shift to toggle between two or more layouts. The way to do this is slightly different for each operating system.
Windows 8

  1. Open Control Panel
  2. Under "Clock, Language, and Region," click "Change input methods"
  3. Click "Options" to the right of your language
  4. Click "Add an input method"
  5. Scroll down to the language you want to add, click + next to it, then select the layout*
  6. Click OK in each dialog window.

Windows 7

  1. Open Control Panel
  2. Under "Clock, Language, and Region," click "Change keyboards or other input methods"
  3. Click "Change keyboards"
  4. Click Add
  5. Scroll down to the language you want to add, click + next to it, then select the layout*
  6. Click OK in each dialog window.
  7. To use the layout, click the language input button on the taskbar (it probably says EN) and select it.

Windows Vista

  1. Open Control Panel
  2. If in Classic View, click "Control Panel Home" in upper-left corner
  3. Under "Clock, Language, and Region," click "Change keyboards or other input methods"
  4. Click "Change keyboards"
  5. Click "Add"
  6. Scroll down to the language you want to add, click + next to it, then select the layout*
  7. Click OK in each dialog window.

Windows XP

  1. Open Control Panel
  2. Double-click "Regional and Language Options"
  3. Click "Languages"
  4. Click "Details"
  5. Click "Add"
  6. Under "Input Language," pick the language you want to add*
  7. Under "Keyboard layout/IME" make your selection
  8. Click OK in each dialog window.

Windows 95, 98, ME, NT

  1. Open Control Panel
  2. Double-click "Keyboard"
  3. Click "Language"
  4. Click "Properties," "Settings," or "Details" (whichever you see)
  5. Click "Add"
  6. Pick the layout you want to add*
  7. Click OK in each dialog window.

Windows 2000

  1. Open Control Panel (via Start menu or My Computer)
  2. Double-click "Keyboard"
  3. Click "Input Locales"
  4. Click "Change"
  5. Click "Add"
  6. Pick the layout you want to add*
  7. Click OK in each dialog window.

*Layout names:
International Keyboard: English (United States), US-Int'l   UK Extended Keyboard: English (UK - extended)   French Keyboard: French (Standard)   French Canadian Keyboard: French (Canadian)

Windows: ALT codes

The best way to type accents on a PC is by using the international keyboard, which requires a simple control panel configuration - there is no keyboard to purchase or software to download.

If you're really set against the international keyboard, you can type accented characters with ALT codes, which use the ALT key and a 3 or 4 digit code. However, ALT codes only work with the numeric keypad, not the row of numbers across the top of your keyboard. So they won't work on a laptop unless you hit number lock to activate the number pad "built into" the right-side of your keyboard, which is a big hassle because then the letters won't work. Bottom line, if you're on a laptop, choose a different keyboard rather than messing around with ALT codes.

To type accents with ALT codes, hold down the ALT key, then on the numeric keypad type the three or four digits listed here. When you release the ALT key, the character will appear.

a with grave accent
   à  ALT + 133    À  ALT + 0192

a with circumflex
   â  ALT + 131    Â  ALT + 0194

a with tréma
   ä  ALT + 132    Ä  ALT + 142

a e ligature
   æ  ALT + 145    Æ  ALT + 146

c with cedilla
   ç  ALT + 135    Ç  ALT + 128

e with acute accent
   é  ALT + 130    É  ALT + 144

e with grave accent
   è  ALT + 138    È  ALT + 0200

e with circumflex
   ê  ALT + 136    Ê  ALT + 0202

e with tréma
   ë  ALT + 137    Ë  ALT + 0203

i with circumflex
   î  ALT + 140    Î  ALT + 0206

i with tréma
   ï  ALT + 139    Ï  ALT + 0207

o with circumflex
   ô  ALT + 147    Ô  ALT + 0212

o e ligature
   œ  ALT + 0156   Œ  ALT + 0140

u with grave accent
   ù  ALT + 151    Ù  ALT + 0217

u with circumflex
   û  ALT + 150    Û  ALT + 0219

u with tréma
   ü  ALT + 129    Ü  ALT + 154

French quotation marks
   «  ALT + 174    »  ALT + 175

Euro symbol
     ALT + 0128

Apple: Option Key and KeyCaps

To type accents on an Apple with the option key, hold down the option key while pressing the key(s) in bold in this list. For example, to type ê, hold the option key while typing i, then release both and type e. To type î, hold option, type i, release and type i again.
Note: In these instructions, "and" means to keep holding the option key and the first key listed while typing the second. "Then" means to release the option key and the first key before typing the second.
acute accent   é   Hold option key and e then e
grave accent   à, è, ù   Hold option key and ` then a, e, or u
cedilla   ç   Hold option key and c
circumflex   â, ê, î, ô, û   Hold option key and i then a, e, i, o, or u
tréma   ë, ï, ü   Hold option key and u then e, i, or u
oe ligature   œ   Hold option key and q
To type any of the above as capital letters, add shift key to the first step. So for É, hold shift key, option key, and e, then e.
French quotation marks   «   Hold option key and \
   »   Hold option key and shift key and \
Euro symbol      Hold option key and shift key and 2
KeyCaps (OS9 and below) is similar, but it gives you a keyboard to click.
  1. Click on the apple on the top left of the screen
  2. Open KeyCaps (a little keyboard will appear on the desktop)
  3. Hold down the option key - the accents will appear and you can click on them with the mouse.
  4. For example, to type ù, hold option, click `, type u. The accented character will appear.
Please note that I don't use an Apple and that these instructions were provided to me by Apple users. If there are mistakes, please let me know.

Apple: Special Character Palette

Opening the special character palette to type accents on a Mac:
  1. Click edit in the menubar
  2. Click Special characters
  3. Select Roman from the View pulldown menu
  4. Select the Accented Latin character palette
  5. Keep the palette open for use in any application
Using the palette:
  1. Place your cursor at the point in the document where you want an accented character
  2. Click the desired accented character in the palette
  3. Click Insert at the bottom of the palette
Please note that I don't use a Mac and that these instructions were provided to me by Mac users. If there are mistakes, please let me know.

Apple: French OS

You can type French accents and immerse yourself in French at the same time on an Apple OSX by setting your system language to French so that your OS as well as most Apple software use French:
  1. Go to System Preferences
  2. Choose International
  3. Change the system operating language to French
Please note that I don't use an Apple and that these instructions were provided to me by Apple users. If there are mistakes, please let me know.

Linux

Here are two ways to type accents in Linux:
Character Palette (Ubuntu 10.04)
Right-click on the top bar and click on "Add to Panel," select and add "Character Palette." The small arrow on the left will give a choice of palettes which you can modify to contain any accented or other character required. Left-click a character, then hold down Control Key and type V to insert it at the cursor position.Compose Key
Specify a particular unused key (e.g., the Windows key) to be the Compose Key, then you can hold down Compose Key and type e` to get è, or o" to get ö. The combinations are pretty intuitive. Where to specify the Compose Key changes from system to system. On a SuSE installation, go to Control Center > Accessibility Options > Keyboard Properties > Options > Compose Key option.Please note that I don't use Linux and that these instructions were provided to me by Linux users. If there are mistakes or omissions, please let me know.

Android

If you have an Android tablet or smart phone, you can download the app Smart Keyboard to get access to accented letters.

  1. Download the trial version or pro version of the app and install it on your device
  2. Go to "Language and keyboard" and check the "Smart Keyboard" box
  3. Go to "Settings > Language > Current Language" and choose "English (International)"
  4. Go any app with a text box and press inside it in order to activate a popup menu. Choose "Input Method" and then "Smart Keyboard"

You're all set! Now you can type accents by pressing and holding the button for the unaccented letter for a moment. A list of accented letters will pop up for you to choose from.

For example, to type à, press and hold the letter a, then choose à. To type é, è, ê, or ë, press and hold e, then make your selection. For ç, press and hold the letter c.

iPhone and iPad

To type accented letters on an iPhone or iPad, press and hold the button for the unaccented letter for a moment. A list of accented letters will pop up for you to choose from.For example, to type à, press and hold the letter a, then choose à. To type é, è, ê, or ë, press and hold e, then make your selection. For ç, press and hold the letter c.
Format
mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Lawless, Laura K. "How to Type French Accents." ThoughtCo, Oct. 13, 2017, thoughtco.com/how-to-type-french-accents-1372770. Lawless, Laura K. (2017, October 13). How to Type French Accents. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/how-to-type-french-accents-1372770 Lawless, Laura K. "How to Type French Accents." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/how-to-type-french-accents-1372770 (accessed October 18, 2017).