Using the on-screen Keyboard

Entering French character accents on your iPad/iPhone using the on-screen keyboard is easy: just press and hold any key to select an accent as shown in Figure 1.

Photo of iOS onscreen keyboard, showing the letter A pressed and the accents from which to choose.

Figure 1. Press and hold any on-screen character to select an accent.

Using an external Bluetooth keyboard

However when you connect your iPad (or iPhone) to an external Bluetooth keyboardFigure 2. lists the Option-key sequences to use instead.

Image showing option key sequences to enter accents.

Figure 2. When using an external, Bluetooth keyboard, these Option key sequences can be used to enter accented characters.

Memory aids when using an external Bluetooth keyboard:

The accents are generated holding the option key while pressing a specific character, followed by the letter to be accented. Here are some memory aids to help remember which specific character, to generate each accent:

accent grave: Option key + `, the actual “grave” accent, e.g. très
accent aigu: Option key + e, the only letter in french with this accent, e.g. élégant
accent circonflexe: Option key + i, e.g. fête
umlaut: Option key + u, e.g. Noël
cedilla: Option + c, the only letter in french with this accent, e.g. Ça

8 thoughts on “How to enter French character accents on your iPad/iPhone”

  1. Dianne Holland says:

    When I hold the key, the accented choices appear. But as soon as I take my finger off to hit the correct choice, everything disappears. I have tried holding the key and hitting the choice at the same time with my other hand but that produces nothing. Any suggestions?

    1. Wendy says:

      I just figured it out! Once you’ve got the accent list up, slide your finger upward and over to the letter you want, then let go.

  2. Ben Schmidt says:

    The instructions posted on this webpage are for entering accented characters on an iPad/iPhone _when_ using an external Bluetooth keyboard. When_ using an external Bluetooth keyboard, pressing and holding a letter on the Bluetooth-keyboard does NOT cause the accented choices to appear. Hence, the need for the alternative instructions on this webpage.

    If the accented choices DO appear on your iPhone/iPad, then you must be using the on-screen keyboard, and NOT an external Bluetooth keyboard. Hence this webpage does not apply. For the on-screen keyboard, you can just press and hold the letter-to-be-accented, and when the accent-choices appear, slide your finger slightly up and to the side, and then release over the accent of their choice.

    1. M Jordan says:

      Thanks – that works!

    2. Danielle says:

      About the French accents : Excellent. Ben . Bravo . Merci

    3. Gerard Wall says:

      Many thanks! I’d been bumbling around for eons trying to do this!


  3. iPad Guru says:

    I have a UK iPhone but live in France, so your tips are ideal for when I don’t want to switch keyboard to the French AZERTY one.

    1. benschmidt says:

      Thank you for your comments. It is indeed frustrating that the press-and-hold feature to access accented characters, works on the iOS on-screen keyboard, and on a MacOS keyboard, but not from a Bluetooth keyboard attached to an iOS device. Hence the need for these instructions. Glad you found them helpful.

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