Ecrivez-Vous Français? How to Type French Accents and French Words

by Enggul. The French language originated in France.
by Enggul. The French language originated in France. | Source

Though you may live in the U.S.A., your international outlook often prompts to type letters to recipients living in France, and to pepper your essays with French expressions. Or perhaps you’ve decided to take French to broaden your travel horizons, and need to type essays in that language. Unfortunately, your American-bought keyboard, while perfectly functional for English, lacks any facility for Gallic characters.

Actually, if you’re using Windows, you can use a standard keyboard to create French accents and French words. However, you will need to use a word processor or entry box that accepts formatted characters. For example, Microsoft Word or WordPad can handle French characters, but the text-based Notepad cannot.

CTRL Key

The simplest method of typing letters with French accents is to press the CTRL key and the accent mark, and then the corresponding letter. The following are examples:

  • To enter “á”, press the CTRL and apostrophe (‘) keys, and then the “a” key.
  • To enter “è”, press the CTRL key and apostrophe (`) key next to the “1” key on the main keyboard. Then, press the “e” key.
  • To enter “ç”, press the CTRL key and comma(,), and then the “c” key.
  • To enter “ê”, press the CTRL key and (^), and then the “e” key.
  • To enter “ä”, press the CTRL key, SHIFT key and (:), and then the “a” key.

You cannot type ligatures like “æ” with this method.

ALT Codes

You can also type French accents and French words by using ALT codes. This requires pressing the ALT key and while keeping it pressed, entering the corresponding code below using the number keypad.

Letter Key

À ALT + 0192

 ALT + 0194

Ä ALT + 0196

à ALT + 0224

â ALT + 0226

ä ALT + 0228

Ç ALT + 0199

ç ALT + 0231

È ALT + 0200

É ALT + 0201

Ê ALT + 0202

Ë ALT + 0203

è ALT + 0232

é ALT + 0233

ê ALT + 0234

ë ALT + 0235

Î ALT + 0206

Ï ALT + 0207

î ALT + 0238

ï ALT + 0239

Ô ALT + 0212

ô ALT + 0244

ΠALT + 0140

œ ALT + 0156

Ù ALT + 0217

Û ALT + 0219

Ü ALT + 0220

ù ALT + 0249

û ALT + 0251

ü ALT + 0252

Ÿ ALT + 0159

ÿ ALT + 0255

Switching to the French Canadian Keyboard

When typing long French documents, you may prefer to temporarily switch your keyboard to a French layout in Windows 7.

  1. Select the Start button and then click “Control Panel,” “Clock, Language and Region” and “Change Keyboards or Other Input Methods” under Region and Language. The Region and Language dialog box appears.

  2. Select the “Keyboards and Languages” tab, if it is not already active. Then press the “Change Keyboards” button to display the Text Services and Input Language dialog box.

  3. Press the “Add” button, if French does not appear as an installed service. This shows the “Add Input Language” dialog box.

  4. Choose the variant of French that you need. I recommend using “French (Canada)” and under that, choosing “Canadian French” because this keyboard most closely resembles the American QWERTY keyboard. The France keyboard from France has a slightly different, and more confusing layout.

    Press “OK” to close the Add Input dialog box. The “FR” icon appears next to “French” in the Installed Services box. Press “OK” twice to close the Tex Services and Input Languages dialog box and the Region and Language dialog box.

The “EN” icon for “English” appears on the far right of your taskbar. Select that icon to show the Languages popup. Pick “FR (French)” to activate the French language keyboard.

Using the French Canadian Keyboard

You type French accents on French words as follows:

  • To enter a vowel with an acute accent like “é”, press the apostrophe (‘) key and then the vowel.
  • To enter a vowel with a grave accent like “à”, press the apostrophe (`) key next to the “1” key on the main keyboard. Then, press the “e” key
  • To enter a vowel with a circumflex like “ê”, press the SHIFT key, the “[“ key and then the vowel.
  • To enter a vowel with a trema like “ä”, press the SHIFT key, the “]” key and then the vowel.
  • To enter the “ç”, press the “]” key and then the “c” key.

You cannot type ligatures like “æ” with French Canadian keyboard.

For information on typing Spanish accents, see How to Type Spanish Accents on Spanish Words.

© 2011 by Aurelio Locsin

Which method do you prefer?

  • CTRL key
  • ALT codes
  • French Canadian keyboard
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Comments 23 comments

rafken profile image

rafken 5 years ago from The worlds my oyster

Up and useful, thanks, I always wondered about this.


Miss Mellie profile image

Miss Mellie 5 years ago

For those who might be curious, accents and special characters can also be made on a Mac keyboard: comment ça va, fröhlich, ¡Arriba! Voted useful.


alocsin profile image

alocsin 5 years ago from Orange County, CA Author

Very true, Miss Mellie. But without a Mac myself, that isn't something I can personally test, so I didn't describe that.


Cathy I profile image

Cathy I 5 years ago from New York

Thank you for some very useful information.I have sometimes wanted to use a certain word or phrase but never knew how to put in accents or cedillas. Good job.


CyclingFitness profile image

CyclingFitness 5 years ago from Nottingham UK

merci beaucoup c'est un fantastique hub alocsin.


alocsin profile image

alocsin 5 years ago from Orange County, CA Author

Je vous en prie, CyclingFitness.


ithabise profile image

ithabise 4 years ago from Winston-Salem, NC

So helpful! Thank you very much!


Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

Pamela Kinnaird W 4 years ago from Maui and Arizona

Wow! You've really done your homework on this. I had to stop half way through and go re-read your profile to see if you're French or have PhD in computer technology. Good work and a great reference for all of us.


annart profile image

annart 4 years ago from SW England

Interesting. If you have an apple MacBook, the Edit facility gives you 'special characters' which is useful, if a little tedious as you have to insert each bit as you go, or do it all afterwards. I send lots of French emails but I find it's ok to do it this way. Voted up and useful.


alocsin profile image

alocsin 4 years ago from Orange County, CA Author

The Mac is a lot easier to use than the PC ;)


Jennifer Essary profile image

Jennifer Essary 4 years ago from Idaho

Voted up, interesting, and awesome. I took 5 years of french in school and never knew I could use the correct characters on my keyboard. Perhaps it is because when I learned the language people still used typewriters and word processors. Thank you for sharing this wonderful knowledge. Bookmarked and sharing.


PWalker281 4 years ago

This is good to know AL when I want to practice my college French. Merci! Voté up et utile (that's what Google translate gave me)!


alocsin profile image

alocsin 4 years ago from Orange County, CA Author

Je vous en prie (you're welcome), PWalker284.


Roy W 4 years ago

I have to point out that Notepad is quite capable of producing french accented characters and of saving them correctly using the alt + numeric key method.


alocsin profile image

alocsin 4 years ago from Orange County, CA Author

Thanks Roy W. Many Windows apps can produce these accents.


Nomascus concolor profile image

Nomascus concolor 4 years ago from A Country called Earth

Nice hub! I always struggle when I use an English keyboard. I will learn the main ones by heart. Voted up and useful


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

Good information to know. Thanks for the primer on how to use it when it comes to typing French accents and words. Voted useful & interesting.


charlesxavier04 profile image

charlesxavier04 4 years ago from London

Good job, c'est une très bon hub! I'm sure this will be very useful for those who want to learn the language!


alocsin profile image

alocsin 4 years ago from Orange County, CA Author

Merci beacoup, charlesxavier04.


add-diva profile image

add-diva 4 years ago from Georgia

This is very helpful because it saves me from having to use the Symbol Insert function in MS Word. Merci beaucoup!


rajan jolly profile image

rajan jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

Hi Aurelio. Very useful hub. In fact, I hope you can instruct how to put certain Greek symbols like alpha, beta, sigma, phi to name a few as well as some measurement symbols like microgram (mu g).

Voted up, useful, interesting and awesome.

Merci mon ami. Sharing.


Jason 3 years ago

I find ALT codes somewhat easier than CTRL key and I'm not familiar with French Canadian keyboard. Now I use TypeFrench.org (free online keyboard) and also easytypefrenchcccents.com (software). Both extremely simple. The only drawback - the software is for Windows only, no Mac version, but it's great if you have Windows.


lollipop 2 years ago

Using Alt codes is so.... 1990.

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