Accent marks are a required part of writing in French. Many English-speaking beginners’ reactions to them are along the lines of, “Do they really matter?”
However, learning how to read and write French accent marks is only part of the battle. Since we live in the twenty-first century, it’s important to know how to type them too.
Here’s the problem: French accent marks don’t appear on most US English keyboards. Never fear! Typing French accents is easier than it looks, and you don’t even need a French keyboard.
This guide will cover how to type French accent marks on English keyboards for PC, Mac, Linux, and mobile devices. This information will help you whether you’re taking French tutoring or a class, organizing a trip to Paris, or just learning the basics.
What are French accent marks?
Visit our incredible guide to French pronunciation to read more about all the accent marks, their French names, and explanations of how they alter the letter’s pronunciation. Here’s a brief overview:
É – Accent aigu
The accent aigu only appears above the letter E. Pronounced like -ay.
Examples of words that include it: desolé, médicin.
È – Accent grave
Accent grave usually appears above the letter E, but can appear above any vowel. Pronounced like the E in the English word “get.”
Examples of words that include accent grave: problème, deuxième
Ç – Accent cedille
The cedille appears under the letter C, and makes the sound soft, like an S, as opposed to hard, like a K.
Examples of words that include accent cedille: français, garçon
Ö – Accent trema
The trema can appear over any vowel. It makes the second vowel in a pair voiced, and is often used with names and places.
Examples of words that include it : coïncidence, Zoë
Ô – Circonflexe
The circonflexe can appear over any vowel. It does not significantly alter the pronunciation. There is a movement to remove it from the language, but it is still important to recognize it and know which words include it.
Examples of words that include it: être, hôtel
Inserting French accent marks in word processors
Microsoft Word, Google Docs, and Mac computers all have features that allow you to insert special characters that don’t appear on the keys. This is the most intuitive way to type French accent marks.
In Google Docs, start by clicking “Insert”, then “Special Characters.” Two drop-down menus and a grid of symbols will pop up. Select “Latin” from the first drop-down menu, and then select the accented letter you want to type from the grid. Easy!
In Microsoft Word, also start by clicking “Insert.” Next, click “Symbol.” A grid of symbols will pop up. If the one you’re looking for is not on there, click “More Symbols” at the bottom. You’ll see two drop-down menus and a grid. Select “Basic Latin” from the second drop-down menu, select the accented letter you want to type from the grid, and click “Insert.”
On a Mac, start by clicking “Edit” in the menu bar. Then choose “Special Characters” and select “Roman” from the drop-down menu. Next, select the “Accented Latin” character palette. Then, click the character you want to type, and hit “Insert”.
Of course, word processors are far from the only place where people type!
Accent mark shortcuts for PC
To enter these codes for French accent marks, use a sustained key press – press each key one at a time, and hold it down until all the keys in the sequence are pressed down (note: don’t type the “+” symbol).
- Accent aïgue (é): Press CTRL+‘ (apostrophe), followed by the letter
- Accent grave (à, è, ù): Press CTRL+` (the key to the left of “1”), followed by the letter
- Accent circonflèxe (â, ê, î, ô, û): Press CTRL+Shift-6 followed by the letter
- Trëma (ë, ï, ü): Press CTRL+Shift+; followed by the letter
- Cédille (ç): Press CTRL+ followed by the letter
If these codes don’t work on your computer, don’t fret. Try these Windows ALT codes for French accent marks by just using your number pad:
- Alt+0233 (é)
- Alt+0224 (à)
- Alt+0232 (è)
- Alt+0249 (ù)
- Alt+0226 (â)
- Alt+0234 (ê)
- Alt+0238 (î)
- Alt+0244 (ô)
- Alt+0251 (û)
- Alt+0235 (ë)
- Alt+0239 (ï)
- Alt+0252 (ü)
- Alt+0231 (ç)
French accent mark shortcuts for Mac
You can type French accents on an Apple device with Option Key Accents codes and KeyCaps.
Option Key Accents codes
The modern Mac OS offers an exceptionally fast method of typing French accents, and it’s easy to use:
- Accent aïgue (é): Press Option + E
- Accent grave (à, è, ù): Press Option + ` followed by the letter
- Accent circonflèxe (â, ê, î, ô, û): Press Option + I followed by the letter
- Trëma (ë, ï, ü): Press Option+u followed by the letter
- Cédille (ç): Press Option + C
To use KeyCaps to type French accent marks, click on the little Apple logo on the top left side of your screen.
Next, open KeyCaps. A little keyboard will appear on the screen. Hold down the Option key until a series of accent marks appears. Click on the French accent mark you wish to type, then type the letter that it modifies.
For example, if you wanted to type é, click `, and then type the E. Et voila.
Accent mark shortcuts for mobile devices
For iPhone, Android, and tablet keyboards, hold down any letter, and French accent options will appear (with other non-French accents, as well). In a nutshell, if you want to type “e” with an accent, hold down the “E” key, and you’ll instantly see these options pop up: è é ê ë ē ĕ ė ę ě and ə. Just click the one you’re looking for, and keep on writing.
Typing French accent marks in Linux
There are two options for typing accent marks in a Linux operating system: Character Palette and Compose Key.
To use the character palette, right-click on the top bar and choose “Add to Panel”. Then, click “Character Palette”. To insert the accent mark you’re looking for, left-click it, which will copy the accent mark to your clipboard. Just use Ctrl + V (Paste) to place it in a word or sentence
To use the Compose Key, you have to first designate an unused key as the Compose Key by following this click sequence:
Control Center > Accessibility Options > Keyboard Properties > Options > Compose Key option
Once it’s designated, hold down your Compose Key, followed by the letter and the accent mark, to place the symbol.
Here are some examples:
- To type é, the sequence is: compose key, E, ‘.
- To type è, the sequence is: compose key, E, `.
- To type ö, the sequence is: compose key, O, “.
Windows International Keyboard add-ons
Another option for typing French accents in Windows is to add an alternate keyboard layout. The options available for typing in French are International Keyboard, French Keyboard, and Canadian French Keyboard.
The International Keyboard is the most user-friendly to US-based users who are used to a QWERTY-style layout. The French Keyboard is AZERTY and has several keys in different places than a US English keyboard. That makes switching back and forth confusing. The Canadian French keyboard has all the un-modified letters in the same spots, but has some additional characters.
However, the typing of the accents themselves is easier on the French and Canadian French Keyboards. On the French keyboard, most accent marks are available as keys. On the Canadian French, however, fewer are available as keys, but the codes are simpler.
International Keyboard accent codes
When you use the International Keyboard, you have to watch out when typing quotation marks and apostrophes before letters that accents aigu, cédilles, and trémas typically modify. If you do not put an extra space between the punctuation and the letter, it will assume that you want the accent mark. For example, for c’est not to become cést, you would have to type it as “c’ est” and then go back and remove the space.
- To type accent grave (à, è, etc), type ` (to the left of 1) then the vowel.
- For Accent aigu (é), type ‘ (single quote) then E.
- To type cédille (ç), type ‘ then C.
- To enter a **circonflexe **(ê), type ^ (shift + 6) then E.
- To use tréma (ö), type “ (shift + ‘) then O.
French Keyboard Accent Codes
- To type anything with a circumflex (â, ê, etc), type ^ then the vowel
- For a tréma, (ä, ë, etc), type ¨ and the vowel
Canadian French Keyboard Accent Codes
- For an aigu accent (é), type ´ (next to the right-hand shift key) and then e
- For a grave accent (à, è, ù), type ‘ (apostrophe / single quote) then the vowel
- The circumflex ˆ and tréma ¨ are in the upper-right corner, side by side next to the Enter key
- For cédille (ç), type ¸ (left of the “Enter” key) and then C
Once you decide which keyboard add-on you want to use, here are the instructions for enabling it:
- Open Control Panel
- Under “Clock, Language, and Region,” click “Change input methods”
- Click “Options” to the right of your language
- Click “Add an Input Method”
- Scroll down to the language you want to add, click + next to it, then select the layout*
- Click OK in each dialog window.
No matter which method you like the best, you’ll be ready to type in French whether it’s in present, past, or future tense. Don’t forget to make the most of your learning by booking a French tutor.
To learn everything you need to start learning French, check out our indispensable guide.