Verbally Flimzy

Ramblings, Observations and Misconceptions

List of French Minimal Pairs

Posted on March 8, 2015

EDIT: If you’re just interested in the list of French Minimal pairs, you can go straight there at my new site


I’m in the early stages of learning French. I recently read Fluent Forever: How to Learn Any Language Fast and Never Forget It by Gabriel Wyner, which I highly recommend to anyone trying to learn a language. One of the suggestions it makes is to spend some of your early time, before diving into vocabulary, on some ear training, to learn to distinguish between the new sounds in your target language. One way to do this is by studying “minimal pairs”--that is, words which sound the same, except for one, or sometimes two subtle sounds. Some common examples in English, which are usually difficult for English learners to master, are:

  • Sheep and Ship
  • Kiss and Keys
  • Beach and Bitch
  • Hungry and Angry

So in my quest to find French Minimal pairs, I decided to throw some computer programming skills at the problem. The result is a list of 2921 minimal pairs EDIT: 1666 minimal pairs in the French language.

I took the top 10,000 words in the French language from Wikipedia, transcribed the words to the International Phonetic Alphabet with the help of the eSpeak software, then used my script to compare each pronunciation in the list with every other pronunciation in the list, and generate a list of words which match, except for one sound.

There is no doubt a lot of room for improvement. If you are the hacking type, please feel free to use and tweak my scripts (they aren’t pretty!) to accomplish your own tricks. The scripts are available on GitHub.


Filed under: french language learning Languages Linux Perl