explanation vocabulary / grammar video show / hide Open and closed oe

The open and the closed oe is a sound that is not known to English language. If you know German, Swedish, Finnish or Danish, you probably know the ö. However, if this does not help you, let's say for a start that the sound of the tubby e will first be just a bit prolongued, the lips formed to a small o, to get an open oe.
For a closed oe, purse your lips as if you wanted to whistle a tune. Instead of blowing air through the lips, press the tongue down to form the oe.

These two sounds are represented by two graphemes o and eu. Unfortunately they are not assigned one to one, so that both graphemes can represent both sounds.

Open oe and closed oe
    cœur (heart)   peu (a bit)
    seul (alone)   peut (can)

Do not worry if you do not hear the difference right away. You will still be understood even if you do not pronounce it perfectly. And you will still be able to understand others when they speak. However, you need to learn it, so let´s try again and compare the correct and wrong pronunciations. Maybe now you will hear the difference.

Instead of an open oe a closed oe
  right   cœur wrong   cœur
  right   seul wrong   seul

Instead of a closed oe an open oe
  right   nœud (knot) wrong   nœud (knot)
  right   peu wrong   peu

You may not feel quite confident yet, but don´t worry! All words will also be available as sound samples in the following chapters, so you´ll always be able to hear the correct pronunciation. And when you check a word in the dictionary, you always have the phonetic script that lets you known which one of the many sounds it is.

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