A large number of words in French are made from combinations of letters such as the letters EU which is made from the combination of the letter E and the letter U. Learning how to pronounce the French letters EU and its different pronunciations can be tricky for many persons learning French.
Closed EU /ø/ vs. Opened EU /œ/
Many French words are written with EU which is the combination of the letter E and the letter U. However, the sound of this combination of letters isn’t always the same.
As many French words are written with OEU, EU, or OE, we will cover the pronunciation of these combinations of French letters. The goal is to learn to recognize the pronunciation of the combined letters EU in French at a glance.
French pronunciation course
Check the following words, how do you pronounce EU in French?
- heure: hour
- jeu: game
- feu: fire
- fleuve: river
- soeur: sister
- coeur: heart
- oeil: eye
Let’s learn how to pronounce the two sounds that are proper to the French letters EU. In fact, EU can have 2 different pronunciations in French:
- the opened EU (/œ/)
- the closed EU (/ø/)
Pronunciation of the closed EU vowel
The closed EU vowel,/ø/, is pronounced with the tongue in a similar position to the /e/ sound. That means the tongue is forward. But the lips are rounded.
It generally occurs at the end of a word and is mostly written EU in that case. Let’s see some examples:
- peu: little
- ceux: those
- deux: two
- je veux: I want
- vieux: old
There are some exceptions where the closed EU is followed by a pronounced consonant. Check the following words:
- before the /z/ sound:
- heureuse: happy
- sérieuse: serious
- creuse: deep
- before -tre:
- feutre: felt pen
- neutre: neutral
- before -te:
- émeute: riot
- thérapeute: therapist
- le jeûne (fasting)
Pronunciation of the Opened EU vowel
The open EU vowel, /œ/, is pronounced with the tongue in a similar position to the /ɛ/ vowel. The tongue is forward and the lips are rounded. The mouth is much more open to pronounce this sound.
This open character of the vowel tends to occur in syllables that end in a consonant. The last consonant of the syllable is pronounced.
The open EU vowel /œ/ can be found in:
- neuf: nine
- seul: alone
- heure: butter
- ils peuvent: they can
- œuf: egg
- cœur: heart
- œuvre: work
- oeil: eyes
Pronunciation of EU in French (a video)
Watch the following video in which I explain the different pronunciations of the letters EU. Listen and learn the right pronunciation of many words that contain EU in French.
This video is part of the live French lessons that you can join on Master Your French on YouTube.
Take the pronunciation quiz
Try the following pronunciation quiz to test your knowledge of French pronunciation of the letter EU. In the test, you’ll see a number of French words that contain the letters EU, you’ll have to pick whether the letter EU is an opened vowel (/œ/) or a closed vowel (/œ/).
Thanks for reading! If you’d like to know more about other topics related to the pronunciation in French you can check our guide to learn French pronunciation. If you enjoyed this article please let me know in the comments below. For more pronunciation resources, you can connect with me on YouTube or Instagram.
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