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I am getting confused on how to pronounce fête. I hear some people say sete and others say fete.
Which is the correct way of saying it?

  • 11
    Nobody pronounce it "sete". – jlliagre Nov 9 '15 at 23:28
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    Concerning the pronunciation of différent accents, i.e. "é", "è" and "ê", many french people say that the pronounciation is different and that, according to what you hear, you can deduce the accent on the word. As a french native speaker, I pronounce all accent the same and I never was able to identify the accent by hearing the word. In case of ambiguities between 2 possible accents, e.g. for "près" (near) and "prés" (meadows) , I only deduce the good orrthograph from the context. – Graffito Nov 10 '15 at 0:01
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    @Graffito It really depend of your accent, I guess. The differences between « é » and « è » was obvious everywhere I lived, and both accents can't be interchanged, but it's probably not the case in the South, indeed. – Blackhole Nov 10 '15 at 1:01
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    @Graffito This is regional indeed. I regularly have a similar debate about the pronunciation of imperfect and simple past (e.g. j'allais vs j'allai, which I don't pronounce the same but people from other parts of France can't tell apart when they speak). – Chop Nov 10 '15 at 9:45
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    Can you give an example of the sete pronunciation? I can't relate it to anything. – GAM PUB Nov 11 '15 at 21:30
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The mainstream pronunciation is /fɛt/, with a southern French accent, that might be /fɛ:tə/, with some eastern French accents and Belgian ones, that might be /fɛ:t/ or /fe:t/, and finally in Quebec, the ê normally becomes a diphthong or a long vowel so you might hear [faɪ̯t], [faɛ̯t], or [fɛ:t], the latter mostly in official settings. On the other hand, [fɛt] (with a short vowel) will always be interpreted a representing fait or faite, the p.p. of faire.

In any case, nobody pronounces it "sete".

  • Don't forget /fɛ:t/ in Belgium where /fɛt/ would be interpreted as "le fait". (/fe:t/ is sometimes heard but strongly stigmatized). – Eau qui dort Nov 11 '15 at 11:28
  • @Eauquidort done, thanks for the advice. – jlliagre Nov 11 '15 at 12:05
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    As it is, [faɪ̯t] "fête" and [fɛt] "fait" (as in <je l'ai FAIT>) are in phonological opposition, which means that /ê/ and /è/ are different phonemes in Quebec French. (Note: <fait> and <faite> have the same pronunciation in QF.) – Nou La Nov 5 '18 at 16:39
  • @NouLa C'est un fait! (/se.tœ̃.fɛt/) – Montée de lait Nov 5 '18 at 20:10
  • @Montéedelait Un fait divers ? – jlliagre Nov 5 '18 at 21:10
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The good pronounciation is [fɛt].

You can listen this in "Prononciation" section:
https://fr.wiktionary.org/wiki/f%C3%AAte#Prononciation

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    Generally speaking, it's more useful to know whether a pronunciation is “standard” or “usual” rather than “good”. That's especially true in this case, since native speakers pronounce the word in different ways. – Relaxed Nov 11 '15 at 10:38
  • @Chop : You're right, I edited my post. – SF_user Nov 16 '15 at 8:30
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I pronounce it the same as "faite", if you want it without the IPA. My accent would be closest to Parisian. The "ê" is usually pronounced ɛ, like an e before double consonants for instance in chienne. Bonus: The origin of the circonflexe or "hat" accent in this case was the replacement of the s in the old french version "feste". It's still there in other forms of the word. For example, "des activités festives". Frequently the accent denotes this deletion of another letter/sound, but this is not always the case.

  • +1 It’s interesting (?although maybe coincidental?) that your way of pronouncing it corresponds with the “faite” used in a circa 1050 example of its Etymology et History (see here near the bottom): «célébration faite à jour marqué». Your mention of the ‘missing’ “S” also makes me wonder if perhaps what @Tia27 really meant to say was: “I hear some people say feSte” & that “I hear some people say Sete” was just a typo. As mentioned above in a comment, nobody pronounces it ‘sete,’ but perhaps some people [still] pronounce it ‘feste.’ – Papa Poule Nov 11 '15 at 15:29
  • Yeah that's what brought it to mind. I've never heard it pronounced "feste" , but it makes more sense and seems more likely than "sete" which just leaves me with ???. – Nicook5 Nov 11 '15 at 17:15
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    I wouldn't expect any native French speaker to say "feste" these days. Only a Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Catalan etc. native speaker might erroneously use that word en French. – jlliagre Nov 12 '15 at 8:37
  • The non-Gallo-Romance language varieties still spoken in and native to Southern France have <festa> too. These language varieties belong to the same family as Catalan, Occitano-Romance, a subdivision of Ibero-Romance. – Nou La Nov 5 '18 at 17:18
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It is consistently pronounced as "FET". Perhaps you had confused it with somebody saying one of the following: cet(s), cette(s), or c'est?

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