French Corrective Phonetics Guide

The Vowel /u/

The Vowel /u/

The French vowel /u/ has the following features: high, back, rounded and oral. Examples of words containing /u/ are: loup [lu] , roue [ʁu] , couvrir [kuvʁiʁ] , pouvoir [puvwaʁ] .


Like all French vowels, the vowel /u/ is short and tense. When articulating, avoid adding a /w/ at the end. While English does have a similar vowel, they are not the same. This is obvious in the following pairs:


Word pair French English
"doux/do" [du] [duw]
"nous/new" [nu] [nuw]
"sous/Sue" [su] [suw]



Speakers of English tend to draw out the vowel in stressed open syllables. In closed syllables, be careful not to use a lax vowel. For example, the vowel in the English word pool is lax (i.e.: slightly lower and central), while that of the French word poule should be tense.

Note also that since /u/ is a rounded vowel, the lips must be advanced as well as rounded (as if you were going to whistle a low note).


The vowel /u/ is represented by the combination "ou" in certain contexts. Namely:

a) at the end of a word, e.g.: mou [mu]

b) before a consonant, e.g.: prouver [pʁuve]

Note that when "ou" is followed by a pronounced vowel, it represents the semi-consonant /w/ and NOT /u/, e.g.: louer = [lwe] and NOT [lue] .


Image result for heads up

  • Be sure to pronounce a short tense vowel and to avoid a diphthong (doux = [du] and NOT [duw] )
  • Make sure you use the high French vowel, not the lax English one. In others words, don't pronounce poule the same as pool.



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