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How to pronounce the French A sound - FrenchMaestro
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French pronunciation of the sound A

How to pronounce the French A sound

Bonjour ! and welcome to this lesson dedicated to the French A sound. The [A] sound in French is relatively easy to pronounce, as it is common to a lot of other languages. There are yet a few specifics worth noting, that we explain in this video and its transcript below. To get the most of this lesson, we'd like to give you those advice before starting :

  1. ​don't give up because you don't understand everything in the video : at that stage, you are here to learn and perfect your pronunciation
  2. be active during this video : repeat each word or syllable during the blank spaces we left for you on purpose
  3. take a blank sheet of paper and write down any word you don't know to start building your own list
  4. if you can't pronounce a difficult French word with [A], just leave us a comment : we will record it for you

If you watch all our videos on the French sounds and apply the method above, in no time you will be improving your French. And now, the [A] sound video : 

Phonetics of the French A sound

To be strictly accurate, there are actually 2 slightly different [A] sounds in French, even though this difference tends to disappear in modern French language. 

  • /​a/ : what I would call the "standard" [A], rather "closed", with the sound coming from the front of your mouth, like in "Paris" or "bateau
  • /ɑ/ : this sound is more "open", coming from the internal part of your mouth, it is more internal. Usually this sound is heard in 4 situations :  
    • before a "z" : gaz
    • before a "s" : base, phrase
    • before a silent "s" : en bas
    • with a circumflex accent : âme

My advice : don't overthink this. Depending on the regional accents in France, the difference might be more or less stronger. But in any case, if you pronounce both sounds the exact same way, I can assure you that any French people will understand you. 

Sample words with the French A sound

We selected those 3 different words, coming from our list of 999 Essential Words, to help you pronounce correctly the French A sound. More than the words themselves, relatively easy, pay attention to the liaison made between the articles (deux, trois, cinq, des, un, une) and the word starting with a vowel (année, avion). 

  • année : noun, feminine : year
  • avion : noun, masculine : plane
  • canard : noun, masculine : duck

Same [A] sound... different spelling

French is usually difficult to learn precisely because the letters or combination of letters are not always pronounced the same way, and reciprocally, a same sound can be written in different manners. There are at least 6 different ways to write the same sound [A] in French. 

  • a : avion, année, parade, lavande
  • â : âtre, appât, âme, âne
  • à : voilà, là-bas
  • as : tu as, tu auras, verglas, repas
  • at : rat, odorat, sénat, sultanat
  • ha : haleter, hasart, havre​

Essential “Mots-Outils” with [A]

In French elementary schools (in the class level called "CP/CE1"), pupils must know a list of about 150 critical connectors before they turn 8 years old. As an adult, by knowing them by heart, you will cut your learning curve and it will help you concentrate on other difficulties. By working on the pronunciation of the French sounds, you will learn get to know them very quickly ! Here is a short extract of this list focusing on the French A sound : 

  • afin : in order to
  • alors : then
  • après : after
  • assez : enough
  • avant : before
  • avant-hier : the day before yesterday
  • avec : with

French Verbs with sound [A]

There are dozens - if not hundreds - of verbs containing the [A] sound in their radical. Our intention there is not to be exhaustive, but to provide a selection of French verbs with this syllable in various positions (initial, middle, final). Here is a short list taken from our 202 French Verb Conjugator list.  :  

    1st group : acheter, appeller, apprécier, amuser

    2nd group : ​aboutir, agir, ralentir

    ​3rd group : abattre, appartenir, apparaître, apercevoir, aller

French idioms with sound [A]

Today, an expression with an animal : a cow ! Literally, it would mean "oh, the cow !" or "look at that cow !". We usually use it to express surprise about something incredible, shocking or unbelievable. Also when we admire a great performance (like in sports, someone scoring many times in a game). 

  • Oh, la vache ! : oh my god ! hell ! damn !

French for Kids

Drawing done by my own daughter, 6 years old, representing a raccoon (hopefully you recognized it !). Fell free to share this with your kids and help them learn French :-)

  • un raton laveur : a raccoon
French For Kids : racoon in French is raton laveur

French For Kids : racoon in French is raton laveur

French culture starring... the [A] sound !

Who said pronunciation has to be boring ?! So why not discover a bit of French culture while practicing your pronunciation of the [A] sound ? We have selected for you those famous symbols of France - a purely subjective choice, based on our personal preferences ;-)

  • Charles Aznavour : bla bla bla in anglish, 2-3 lines maximum.
  • Arthur Rimbaudbla bla bla in anglish, 2-3 lines maximum.
  • Macarons : bla bla bla in anglish, 2-3 lines maximum.
  • Avignon : bla bla bla in anglish, 2-3 lines maximum.
  • Petit Bateau : bla bla bla in anglish, 2-3 lines maximum.
  • Le secret de l'Espadon bla bla bla in anglish, 2-3 lines maximum.
  • Intouchables : la bla bla in anglish, 2-3 lines maximum.

A difficult French word with [A] sound ?

If you still struggle to pronounce correctly the [A] sound in French, we're here to help. Leave us a comment below with the word you can't pronounce, and we will record it for you. We'll only ask you to avoid any slang / crude terms, as this page is accessible by general audiences - including kids.  

Requested French words with [A] sound  :

  •  none so far... be the first ( "Soyez le premier !") and leave us a comment below !

A bientôt !

I hope you enjoyed this lesson on the [A] sound. I actually didn't think the video would last more than 25 minutes ! We have a lot more to come in the next few weeks, so stay tuned with our method. If you consistently practice the pronunciation of all the sounds in French (remember, we have more than 150 !) I guarantee you will be speaking a perfect French in no time.

And now before leaving :

a very detailed #frenchlesson to pronounce correctly the sound [A] in #french. 

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About the Author yannick

Born in Paris where he has spent more than 30 years, Yannick is a French native speaker now based in Ireland. His interest in learning foreign languages comes from his Italian grand-father, his Spanish wife and his Japanese sister-in-law. Teaching French has been a passion since his early twenties when he spent countless hours exchanging with international students.

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