Many native francophones I've spoken with, as well as various books, pronounce -ais and -ait as [ɛ]. My issue with this is that I don't hear people using it that way.

I hear aller /ale/ and allait /alɛ/ as almost indistinguishable from each other. Conversely, the end sound of allait /alɛ/ sounds extremely different from the vowel in être /ɛtʁ/ or tête despite supposedly sharing a sound.

1 Answer 1


There are a lot of variations, especially regional ones, around the pronunciation of several vowels, often depending on their location in the word.

Affected ones include [e] vs [ɛ], [o] vs [ɔ], [œ̃] vs [ɛ̃], and [a] vs [ɑ].

They do not really cause understanding issues.

- Pourquoi le français parisien a-t-il perdu pour la plupart la distinction entre /e/ et /ɛ/?
- Variations sur l'utilisation de [e] et [ɛ]
- Is “ai” in "j'ai" and “finirai” pronounced exactly like “er” in infinitives?

  • But considering I often hear parlerais pronounced like parlerai, wouldn't that cause complications?
    – Nicholas
    Commented Apr 30, 2018 at 17:06
  • 2
    I always pronounce both the same way and nobody ever complained ;-) The whole sentence, the context, the tone is enough to identify the mode, e.g.: demain je parlerai..., je parlerais si je le pouvais.
    – jlliagre
    Commented Apr 30, 2018 at 17:25
  • 1
    Even here in Ontario, an all-French school attended by a québécoise student of mine produces speakers who don't distinguish /e/ and /ɛ/ in futur simple and conditionnel, whereas an all-English school where the students learn French in one class per day do distinguish those two. There seems to be little rhyme or reason! But jlliagre... did you ever say you would do something and someone took it as a promise that you will? :)
    – Luke Sawczak
    Commented May 4, 2018 at 16:36
  • 3
    @LukeSawczak Je le saurai(s) ! ;-)
    – jlliagre
    Commented May 4, 2018 at 18:56

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