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How to pronounce the French o closed sound - FrenchMaestro
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Learn how to pronounce the French O closed sound

How to pronounce the French o closed sound

The French o closed sound is relatively easy to pronounce, as it is quite frequent and common to other languages. In this lesson, we will focus only on the closed O, which official notation from the IPA is /o/ . You are probably aware that there is a second French O sound : the open O sound notated /Ɔ/

Before digging into the lessons, we'd like to give you a few recommendations :

  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 [O], 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 [O] sound video : 

Phonetics of the French o closed sound

Contrary to the [A] sound, the difference between the 2 French o sounds is quite strong and you must absolutely respect it to speak a correct French. 

  • /o/ : this is a closed sound, coming from the front part of your mouth. Official notation is /o/.  Usually this sound is heard in the following circumstances :
    • end of word : mot, bateau, crapaud
    • before [z] : rose, arroser, pause
    • ô circumflex : hôtel, hôtesse
  • /ɔ/ : this sound is more "open", coming from the internal part of your mouth. Official IPA notation is /ɔ/. Usually this sound is heard in 4 situations :  
    • preceding 2 consonants : pomme, homme, botte
    • before a "R" or a "L" : or, dormir, parole
    • latin words : serum, album
    • foreign words : chewing-gumfootball, volleyball

The rules are not that complicated, but there are a few exceptions and it might take time for you to know with confidence which sound to pick. Anyway, remember that practice makes perfect :-)

Sample words having the French o closed sound

We selected a few words from our 999 Essential French Words list to help you pronounce this  closed [O] sound. Don't be shy : repeat loudly after you hear the voice saying the words in French. 

  • un kilo : noun, masculine : kilo
  • un pot : noun, masculine : jar
  • écologie : noun, feminine : ecology
  • trop : adv : too much
  • un hôtel : nouns, masculine : hostel
  • le dôme : noun, masculine : dome
  • un fantôme : noun, masculine : ghost

Same [O] 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 more than a dozen different manners to write the same sound [O] in French : 

  • o : photo, apéro
  • ô : nôtre, vôtre
  • os : nos, vos, vélos
  • ot : pot, mot, camelot
  • oc : croc
  • op : trop
  • : hôtel
  • au : autre, auto
  • aux : taux, faux, animaux
  • aut : saut, défaut
  • eau : beau, eau
  • eaux : bateaux, oiseaux
  • ault : hérault
  • ow : bungalow, marshmallow

Essential “Mots-Outils” with [O]

In French schools, there is a list of about 150 critical connectors that kids must know before they turn 8 years old, in the class level called "CP/CE1". 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 with the French o closed sound : 

  • au : at, to
  • autant : as much as, as many
  • aussi : also, as well, too
  • aussitôt : immediately
  • côte à côte : side by side
  • trop : too, overly, too much, too many

French Verbs with sound [O]

There are tens of verbs containing the [O] 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 222 Most Valuable French Verbs list  :  

    1st group : potasser, localiser

    2nd group : ​abolir, applaudir, appauvrir

    ​3rd group : promettre, produire, connaître, corrompre

French idioms with sound [O]

Again, a new expression with an animal : a pig this time ! Literally, it would mean "to have a pig's personality". We usually use it about someone who is difficult to deal with, quite stubborn, moody, difficult to live with. 

  • avoir une caractère de cochon  : to have a nasty disposition

French for Kids

Drawing done by my own daughter, 6 years old, representing a gentle robot helping preparing fruits and vegetables for the diner. Fell free to share this with your kids and help them learn French :-)

  • un robo: a robot
French For Kids : robot in French is robot

French For Kids : robot in French is robot

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

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

  • Johnny Halliday : bla bla bla in anglish, 2-3 lines maximum.
  • Guillaume Musso : bla bla bla in anglish, 2-3 lines maximum.
  • Pot-au-feu : bla bla bla in anglish, 2-3 lines maximum.
  • Bordeauxbla bla bla in anglish, 2-3 lines maximum.
  • Peugeot : bla bla bla in anglish, 2-3 lines maximum.
  • Obélix et Compagnie bla bla bla in anglish, 2-3 lines maximum.
  • Jean de Florette : la bla bla in anglish, 2-3 lines maximum.

A difficult French word with [O] sound ?

If you still struggle to pronounce correctly the [O] 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 o closed words :

  •  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 French o closed 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 detailed #frenchlesson from @FrenchMaestro to master the [O] sound pronunciation 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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