French accent names and punctuation marks

Read this list to learn French accent names, punctuation marks and French special characters.

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French accent names

It’s a good idea to learn the French accent names for situations where you need to spell out an address or any French word. The only letters that can have an accent mark in French are: a, e, i, o and u.

Accent aigu (acute accent) is used exclusively on letter e. You’ll never find an acute accent on the letter i in French like you would in Spanish.

é
un accent aigu
acute accent
j’ai mangé (I ate), je suis fatigué (I’m tired)
è à ù
un accent grave
grave accent
Où es-tu ? (Where are you?) Je suis à la maison (I’m home)
â ê î ô û
un accent circonflexe
circumflex
la tête (head), le coût (cost), un diplôme (diploma), un hôte (host), un gîte (bed and breakfast place)
ë ï ü
un tréma
diaeresis
du maïs (corn), Noël (Christmas), ambigü (ambiguous)

The letter e with accent

In French, the letter e never bears an accent mark when e is followed by

  • a doubled letter
  • an x

Je m’appelle Tom. [no accent on letter e]
My name is Tom.

Un exercice [no accent on letter e]
An exercise

Un accent circonflexe [no accent on letter e]
A circumflex accent

The letter e with accent is not pronounced the same as e without an accent.

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La marche
A walk

Le marché
Market

The letters a, i, o and u with accents

The letters a, i, o and u never bear acute accent. A grave or circumflex accent on a, i, o or u doesn’t modify the sound of the word.

For instance, all occurrences of a in the following sentence sound the same.

Il a mangé des pâtes à la tomate.
He ate tomato pasta.

Diaresis

In French, a diaresis accent (2 dots over a letter) indicates that the letter should be pronounced separately.

maïs (corn) is pronounced as two syllables whereas mais (but) is one syllable only. Another well known French word with a diaresis is Noël (Christmas).

Du maïs
Corn

Mais bien sûr !
But of course!

Diaresis marks are a lot less common than other French accent marks.

Punctuation marks in French

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Notice how French use different opening and closing quotes than Americans. You can read more about quotation marks in French writing conventions.

«
des guillemets ouvrants
” opening quotes
»
des guillemets fermants
” closing quotes

des points de suspension (trois petits points)
ellipsis
?
un point d’interrogation
question mark
!
un point d’exclamation
exclamation point

une apostrophe
apostrophe
,
une virgule
comma
;
un point-virgule
semicolon
.
un point
period
:
un deux-points
colon
(
une parenthèse ouvrante
open parenthesis
)
une parenthèse fermante
close parenthesis
{
une accolade ouvrante
open brace
}
une accolade fermante
close brace
[
des crochets ouvrants
open bracket
]
des crochets fermants
close bracket

un trait d’union ou tiret du 6 (in reference to the keyboard key on a French keyboard)
hyphen

un tiret long ou tiret cadratin
em dash
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French special characters

Learn the French names for French special characters. You’ll need to use them to give out your email address, your mailing address in France or a folder path.


le symbole euro
euro
º
un degré
degree
ç
un c cédille
cedilla
un garçon
œ
un o-e entrelacé (un e-dans-l’o)
ligature of o and e
un cœur
æ
un a-e entrelacé (un e-dans-l’a)
ligature of a and e
curriculum vitæ
@
une arobase
at sign
%
un pourcentage
percent sign
#
un croisillon (ou carré)
pound sign

un dièse
sharp sign
&
et commercial (une esperluette)
ampersand
\
une barre oblique inversée
backslash
|
une barre verticale
vertical bar
=
le signe égal
equal sign
/
une barre oblique
slash
<
plus petit que
less than
>
plus grand que
greater than
^
un caret
caret
+
le signe plus
plus sign
_
un tiret bas
underscore
*
un astérisque
asterisk
no
un numéro
number
§
un paragraphe
section sign
±
plus ou moins
plus-minus sign
etc
et cetera
and so on

French names with accents

Many French names have accents. Here’s a few French boy names with accents:

  • Hervé
  • André
  • Maël
  • Noé
  • Jérémie
  • Gaëtan
  • Frédéric
  • Cédric
  • Aurélien
  • Rémi

Some French girl names with accents:

  • Hélène
  • Stéphanie
  • Béatrice
  • Noémie
  • Élodie
  • Valérie
  • Cécile
  • Céline
  • Véronique
  • Chloé

French names with special characters

There are very few French names with special characters such as a ligature or a cedilla. Here’s a couple of them.

  • Françis (more often than not, spelled as Francis)
  • François/Françoise
  • Lætitia (also spelled Laetitia)

If you are using a qwerty keyboard, read Type French accents without a French keyboard to learn key combinations on a Mac or a PC.

Nathalie Nahmani

About Nathalie Nahmani

Nathalie is the creator of ma French Life. She moved back to France after living in Los Angeles for 20 years. She writes practical articles to help expats in France. Nathalie lives with her family in the French Alps near Grenoble.

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