French, specifically fr-FR, has a remarkably consistent orthography.

If you know the rules, then given a written word, one should be able to pronounce it correctly even if you don't know what it means.

There are some exceptions which I'll classify as three types:

  1. when you need to know the part of speech: e.g. -ent for third person plural verbs

  2. when you need to know the context: e.g. poetry, singing, slang, deliberate mispronunciations for comedic or dramatic effect

  3. actual exceptions, usually quite minor, like parasol where s is /s/ vs. /z/, or aigu where ai is /e/ vs. /ɛ/.

For those of type 3, I'm looking for a list with word frequency. Does anyone know of one available?

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    The OP is looking for a large list that includes all common words of type 3. Not for a few examples. Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 12:58
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    A single s between two vowels is normally /z/, it is doubled when it is pronounced /s/. Words using /e/ or /ɛ/ depend on the accent more than anything else. Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 13:14
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    @Unfrancophone - Not in parasol or tournesol
    – mouviciel
    Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 13:35
  • @Unfrancophone - Have changed the example to parasol. Thank you mouviciel.
    – Yimin Rong
    Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 13:41
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    Moderator notice: I have deleted answers that only mentioned a handful of words. Please note that the question is asking for a list with frequency information. Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 10:22

1 Answer 1


Although your statement is true comparatively with English pronunciation, I believe French is much more difficult to pronounce from the written form than, say, Italian or German.

One category you entirely disregard contains spellings with letters that should or shoud not be pronounced: net and un jet, une vis and un avis,...

You mention that you are looking for a list of rules and exception, probably you should have a look at the literature about speech synthesis, which may use such a list.

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