Pronunciation: è, ​é ou e

EricR31

EricR31

Merci

je ne comprend pas [why] è, ​é ou e.
They all sound the same to me, makes it difficult
j'en travail 
OrenJ

OrenJ

To my ear, e accent grave is more on the back of the tongue, more like a "short a" while e accent aigu, is a true "a" sound. But I'm from the southeast of the US so I don't hear much difference between pin and pen. 

To expand on EricR31's question. The software often dings me when I use an infinitive er verb, e.g. arriver by saying that I have said arrive, accent aigu, the past participle or  arrivez, second person plural. I thought they were the same "a" sound. I know Michael Thomas teaches them as the same sound since he makes his students spell to remark the difference in grammar (BTW, I dislike his teaching method and hate his way of speaking - it's the ugliest French I've ever heard from a native).
EricR31

EricR31

My issue is that when I hear a word, I can't tell if it would be spelled with an  è, ​é or e in it. It just has to memorized as far as I can tell.
Liss-Rocket-Languages-Tutor

Liss-Rocket-Languages-Tutor

Salut EricR31 et OrenJ !

Understanding when to use the different accents in French can be a little tricky. Below is a breakdown of what each of the accented Es sounds like. I've written them in lower case to make the accents easier to see.

é - This makes a sound like the E in "they."
è - This makes a sound more like the E in "pet."
ê - This makes the same sound as è.
ë - This tells you that the E should be pronounced separately from whatever vowel comes before it.

As you learn more French, you'll start to figure out the patterns for how these Es are used. For example, é is used in the past participle for -er verbs. This means that the past form of marcher "to walk" is marché. The grave accent, è, on the other hand, is commonly seen in words feminine that end in -ere, like infirmière "nurse" or première "first." So after a while, it won't all be memorization!

However, when you're first starting out, it's important to keep in mind that it may take you a little while to be able to hear the difference between the different accents, and that's normal: if you're not used to hearing these sounds, your ears have to be trained to pick them up. The more you listen to French and the more you practice speaking it, the easier it will be for you to hear the sounds. You can also check out the lesson on pronunciation for some extra practice.

As for your question about arriver, arrivé and arrivez, OrenJ, you're right: they do all sound the same. The voice recognition can get confused when these words appear on their own or in phrases where two or more of the three could potentially be used. Our apologies for this - we know that it causes frustration! This is one of the issues that we intend to address in a planned future review of the French courses.

I hope that this was helpful! Do let me know if you have any more questions.

À la prochaine,

Liss

P.S. - EricR31, I have split this section out into its own conversation thread, so that it's easier for other users to find and use.

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