Pronunciation / The sound “u“

A1 Breakthrough
Have you ever tried imitating the way a French person speaks? Have you ever tried imitating sounds that you feel are typically French?
What do you think of French vowels? Are they: awful, normal, rather / really beautiful? You don't know?
Is the difference between:
dessus and
impossible, difficult, easy to hear?

In your opinion, which is the most beautiful vowel?
In your opinion, which vowel is the most awful?

Have you ever observed a French-speaker's lips as they speak?

The [y] is a typical French vowel: you pronounce it by pursing your lips, as if you were blowing the candles out on a birthday cake. Many French sounds are pronounced at the front of the mouth, lips rounded and pursed, and your tongue curled.

The sounds
[y] "tu",
[ø] "deux",
[œ] "neuf",
in [R] "trois" are pronounced from the front of the mouth.

Some people, while learning French, find that it seems to be pronounced as if you were blowing kisses.

The sound [y] is almost always written "u".

You can hear it in the following onomatopoeias:
"zut !"
"chut !"

The sound [y] is a taut, sharp, and labial sound.
You can practise pronouncing the [y] by sounding out the consonants that are pronounced using the same area of the mouth:

ys -∫y – sys

yt – ty – syt

y∫ - ∫y - sy∫

tys - ∫ys – zys

tyt - ∫yt – zyt

ty∫ - ∫y∫ - zy∫

tyz - ∫yz – zyz

If you tend to pronounce
[u], think of the sound
[i], when you want to say

It's also easier to pronounce [y] using rising intonation, like when you ask a question in French using intonation.
You can imitate the examples:
- when repeating the example, try saying it fast and slowly, yelling and whispering it.
- try repeating in time with the example, as precisely as possible.

Exercices de mise en pratique

Pronunciation: the "u" sound

6 exercises
Listen • Pronunciation (Sons / Voyelles - i, u, o...)