8

I noticed there are é and e in the following sentence.

représentent des sons (represent sounds)

Can I use e in place of é?

  • 1
    linked to this. – Yohann V. Oct 28 '16 at 9:44
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    @Tony yes, they are. "du" means "some" or "of the" depending on context, "dû" means "owed". – Quentin Oct 28 '16 at 11:55
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    If your goal is to write in French, then no. – Dmitry Grigoryev Oct 28 '16 at 13:24
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    "Can I use e in place of é?" I am really curious, what could make you consider that you might? – njzk2 Oct 28 '16 at 14:06
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    No, the é and e in French are not pronounced the same way. They are two different sounds!!! – Lambie Oct 28 '16 at 14:18
21

There are many accents in French, you can't decide to use them or not as it pleases you.

It's always here for a reason, and if you don't use it when needed, either the word doesn't mean anything, or it means something else. Most of the time they change the pronunciation, too.

For example, for many verbs, the past participle ends with é:

to buy / I buy / I've bought = acheter / j'achète / j'ai acheté

As you can see, achète and acheté don't have the same use (and don't pronounce the same way).

Some examples to show you accents are VERY common:

  • une forêt = a forest

  • une mère, un père, un frère = a mother, a father, a brother

  • un pré = a field

  • Noël = Christmas

  • s'il te plaît = please

  • cocaïne = cocaine

  • sûr = sure / safe BUT sur = on / over

  • à = to / in BUT (il) a = (he) has

  • un hôpital = a hospital

  • = where BUT ou = or

For many words, you have to learn them as they are, the pronunciation often helps, and there are rules too.

Bonus: créée (= created, feminine past participle of the verb créer = to create).

  • To make a long explanation short, it's basically a new letter in our alphabet. E is pronounced 'euh', É is more like 'eh' and È is more like 'esh'. They cannot be replaced by each other. E =/= É =/= È =/= – Fredy31 Oct 28 '16 at 13:54
  • It might be worth noting that since 1990 many "î" and "û" can be replaced by "i" and "u", with a few (almost) simple rules rules telling when the accent can be omitted. – Morwenn Oct 28 '16 at 13:55
  • Yeah the circ is being more and more obmitted overtime. Those f-ers are just there to trip you up. – Fredy31 Oct 28 '16 at 13:57
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    You can link the ^ to a lingering s in most cases. e.g. hôpital vs hospital – Knu Oct 29 '16 at 13:28
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    @OldBunny2800 Furthermore there is an agreement with avoir if the COD is before the verb: "La mélodie qu'il a créée est magnifique." – Destal Nov 2 '16 at 10:39
12

This is an accent called acute. é is therefore called "e acute". The prononciation is different from e and cannot be dropped in any case unless an alternative spelling exists (like clef and clé).

The answer to your question on the presence of é is simply that this is how the word should be spelled.

  • Sorry, not e acute. An e with an acute accent. Otherwise, this is the only correct answer here. – Lambie Oct 28 '16 at 14:21
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    @Lambie in English, it is often simply called e-acute. – jlliagre Oct 28 '16 at 14:54
5

This character is a "e accent aigu", you pronounce it like the "e" in "heya". Writing the words with a simple "e" instead is a mistake. You can do that only when:

  • The "é" is a capital letter (though you could use the capital "É", a simple "E" is easier to write). In this case, be aware of the possible ambiguities.

  • You are writing something using the ASCII format ("é" isn't part of ASCII so you don't have a choice)

Some words have very different meanings if you forget the accent: for example "tombé" means "fallen" whereas "tombe" means "grave"

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Evpok Oct 29 '16 at 8:52
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Not seeing the "real" reason: these accents replace the letter s - "école" - very similar to "school" in English, for example. Or "forêt" (as above) is similar to "forest" - French evolved from Latin, after all, and in that evolution the writing changed a bit, and the s became the accent mark. It helps the reader to figure out pronunciation as well, because those silent s impact the way the word is pronounced (roughly). So basically, it's part of the proper/correct spelling of these words. And that means they're not the same letter, really. They're more like digraphs. French considers them to be, but Spanish, for example, considers n and nn to be different letters.

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    Sometimes, but not always. For example, there was no "s" in past participles ending in "é". – sumelic Oct 29 '16 at 0:43
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The bare letter «e» is pronounced /ǝ/ (or dropped) unless there's something about its context to make it /e/ (like «é»; as in cachet) or /ɛ/ (like «è»; as in bel) or /ɑ̃/ (as in content) or /ɛ̃/ (as in bien). Any diacritic makes it a full vowel, never a schwa.

1

The goal of the e accent aigu (é) is to distinguish the phoneme /e/ from the phoneme /ə/. In the example phrase, représentent is thus pronounced /ʁǝpʁezɑ̃/. This is no different in principle from how represent is pronounced as /rɛprɪzɛnt/ in English.

NB The circumflex, such as in forêt, is used to indicate an s that used to be pronounced. I chose this example because the English word forest makes this easy to see. In principle you could therefore leave out the circumflexes for pronunciation purposes, but many are still kept to prevent homonymy in writing. That being said, I'd strongly advise against leaving out or replacing any accents in practice.

  • Aren't there some words in which dropping the circumflex could change /ɛ/ (like «è») to /ǝ/? – Anton Sherwood Nov 7 '16 at 21:51
  • In that case "dropping the circumflex" would mean replacing it with a grave accent. ;) – Frenzie Nov 8 '16 at 18:03
  • I almost wrote that the circumflex is equivalent to the grave, but it's content-dependent; I don't think forèt, for example, could exist in the standard language. – Anton Sherwood Nov 8 '16 at 20:07
  • What do you mean exactly? Both foret (as in drill bit) and forêt are pronounced the same as forèt would be, so it seems to me that it already exists quite convincingly. – Frenzie Nov 13 '16 at 10:25
  • Is there any word containing the letter ‹è› before either a final consonant (letter) or a single consonant followed by a vowel? – Anton Sherwood Nov 14 '16 at 21:18

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