Learn French from scratch!
Leçon 12

Lesson 12

Sound [ã]

French sound Similar English sound French letters and letter combinations Notes

nasal vowel [ã]


The letter combinations an, am, en, em are pronounced as [ã] either if the are at the end of a syllable or if they are followed by any consonant letter except for m, n. The word femme f (woman) is pronounced as [fam].

Also indicated by [ɑ̃]

In order to master the last of the French nasal vowels, you need to use the famous (famous only here) technique of “mooing with the open mouth”: without stopping it, pronounce the sound [a]. This gives you the nasal [ã]. Make sure that the clear [n] is not pronounced with the nasal [ã].

Exercise 1. Pronounce:

1. [а — ã], [а — a:z - ã]
2. [ma:z — mã], [da:z — dã]
3. [mã — tã — dã — ʃã - ʒã — lã — kã]

4. [mã:t — tã:t — ʃã:t — gã:t — pã:t]
5. [kã:p — lã:p — rã:p - vã:p]
6. [sã:s - dã:s — lã:s — pã:s — ʃã:s]

Exercise 2. Read and memorize the words:

maman [mamã] f — mum, mummy, mom, mommy
lampe [lãp] f — lamp
dans [dã] — in, into
sans [sã] — without
temps [tã] m — time; weather (the letter combination ps
is not pronounced here)

dimanche [dimã:ʃ] m — (on) Sunday
la France [lafrã:s] — France
français [frãsɛ] m, française [frãsɛ:z] f — French

langue [lã:g] f — language, tongue
centre [sã:tr] m — centre, center
décembre [desã:br] m — December
souvent [suvã] — often
enfant [ãfã] m — child
chanter [ʃãte] — to sing
chanson [ʃãsɔ̃] f — song
encore [ãkɔ:r] — still
étudiant [etydjã] m — student
étudiante [etydjã:t] f — student

If the sound [ã] at the end of a word appears between a vowel of the next word,
then the additional [n] or [m] appears between [ã] and the next vowel —
depending on what is written together with the sound [ã]. For example:
en hiver [ãnivɛ:r] — in winter
However, if the subject is not a pronoun, there is no liaison with the predicate then:
maman arrive [mamã ari:v] — mum arrives

If the prepositions dans [dã], sans [sã] appear before a word starting in a vowel,
the the additional [z] appears between [ã] and the vowel of the next word. For example:
dans une ville [dãzynvil] — in a city
sans un mot [sãzœ̃mo] — without a word

If the verb est [ɛ] appears between a word starting in a vowel,
the the additional [t] appears between [ɛ] and the vowel of the next word. For example:
il est étudiant [ilɛtetydjã] — он студент
le temps est admirable [lətãmɛtadmirabl] pour se promener — the weather is wonderful for walking
This liaison is not required. See lesson 10 for more information about liaisons

Exercise 3. Read and translate. Do not forget about adding [n], [m], [z] or [t] in the highlighted positions:

Il est encore un enfant.

Ma maman aime la France et la langue française.

Où est le centre de la France ?

Il veut chanter une belle chanson italienne.

En hiver le garçon est souvent malade.

Un étudiant peut faire ce travail.

Il veut habiter dans une ville italienne.

Le père de cette femme est écrivain.


Sound [ɳ]

French sound Similar English sound French letters and letter combinations

consonant [ɳ]

[nj] as in the word onion ['ʌnjən]


Exercise 4. Read the words and memorize them:

montagne [mɔ̃taɳ] f — mountain
ligne [liɳ] f — line
signer [siɳe] — to sign
compagnie [kɔ̃paɳi] f — company

campagne [kãpaɳ] f — country(side), campaign
magnifique [maɳifik] m, f — magnificent
espagnol [ɛspaɳɔl] m, espagnole [ɛspaɳɔl] f — Spanish
vignoble [viɳɔbl] m — vineyard

Exercise 5. Read and translate:

Elle aime les montagnes.

Il travaille dans une compagnie espagnole.

Signez votre livre !

Mon vignoble est loin de la maison.

Le temps est magnifique aujourd’hui.


Exercise 6. Now that you have mastered the rules of reading and have memorized many French words, let’s review what you have learned. Read a well-known untitled poem by the French poet Paul Verlaine (1844-1896) and translate it using the vocabulary placed after the poem. If this vocabulary is not enough, consult your French-English dictionary. Compare your translation with three translations by different authors and see how close they are to the source. Learn by heart the original version and the translation you like. So:

Paul Verlaine

* * *

Il pleure dans mon cœur
Comme il pleut sur la ville ;
Quelle est cette langueur
Qui pénètre mon cœur ?
Il pleure sans raison
Dans ce cœur qui s’écœure.
Quoi ! nulle trahison ?...
Ce deuil sans raison.
О bruit doux de la pluie
Par terre et sur les toits !
Pour un cœur qui s’ennuie
О le chant de la pluie !
C’est bien la pire peine
De ne savoir pourquoi
Sans amour et sans haine
Mon cœur a tant de peine !

French Alphabet

Dear friends,

Now you are familiar with all the French letters. All that remains is to remember the order in which they are arranged in the French alphabet. Learn the alphabet, it will come in handy when using dictionaries!

Letters Names of the letters Letters Names of the letters

А а
В b
С с
D d
Е е
F f
G g
H h
I i
J j
K k
L l
M m


N n
O o
P p
Q q
R r
S s
T t
U u
V v
W w
X x
Y y
Z z



Note. The letter Œ œ is not usually listed in the French alphabet. Therefore, remember that it conveys a combination of two letters:

О + Е = Œ
о + е = œ

If a word starts in Œ œ, then you need to look for the letter O o in dictionaries. For example, if you need to find the word œil, seek between the words starting in od... and of... :

O o

odeur smell
œil eye
office office

If œ is not at the beginning of a word, then imagine that it is a letter combination ое, and then search for the right word in the usual way:

S s

six six
sixième the sixth
ski ski
social social
sœur sister
soigner to treat
soirée evening