Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Is it grave?

The accent grave in French always sounded so intimidating to me. And then when I figured out that the accent aigu actually means the 'acute accent'... Well, to be honest, it just seemed unnecessarily serious. On top of that, remembering which direction is grave and direction one is accute was always difficult for me. Couldn't we just call them the left and right accent instead?

About a month ago, a fellow Georgian living in France told me her secret for remembering which direction these two accents go. (And now I'm going to pass it on to the blogosphere!) It's a very simple three-step process you can do in your head.

1. Write the letters G A in caps.

2. Draw two lines to form a V over the letters.


3. The line over the G = accent grave
The line over the A = accent aigu

Accents are not optional in French. Using them incorrectly (or leaving them off completely!) is misspelling the word. Capital letters are often left unaccented, but that's the only exception.

Did you know that an accent aigu is only used on the letter E? Often it means that there used to be an S after the E, such as in étudiant (student) or état (state).

The accent grave, on the other hand, can be used on the letters E, A, U.

Et voilà!

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