When to Pronounce Final Consonants in French

A difficulty that often arises for learners of French is that many French words end in a written consonant that is not actually pronounced. For example, the French words beau and chaud rhyme, even though the second of these ends in a written consonant d while the first doesn’t. But at the same time, the situation is not unfortunately as simple as saying that final consonants are never pronounced. In this article, I give some tips for deciding when a final consonant is pronounced on a French word.

Very General Rule of Thumb

Before going into a little more detail, it’s worth mentioning a general rule of thumb. Very roughly, French makes a distinction between what I will call tongue tip consonants and other consonants. The rough pattern is that:

  • Except for l, final tongue tip consonants are not generally pronounced, except in liaison (see below);
  • Final l and other consonants are more likely to be pronounced.

By tongue tip consonants, I mean consonants ordinarily pronounced with the front part of the tongue: d, t, s, z, n. (Technically, linguists refer to this type of consonant as a coronal and the part of the tongue making contact isn’t always what is strictly termed the “tip”. But we can use “tongue tip consonant” as an informal, non-technical description.) Try pronouncing one of these consonants and you’ll feel the front of your tongue contact the front part of your mouth.

So as a rough rule of thumb, these tongue tip consonants are usually not pronounced on the end of a word: for example, in chaud, chat, bas, nez, bon, the final consonant is not pronounced. In the case of a final n, this actually signals the nasalization of the preceding vowel, an issue we will mention in passing but won’t go into in detail in this article.

The consonant l is a slight exception: although a tongue tip consonant, it is usually pronounced on the end of a word, with occasional exceptions ending in -il (e.g. gentil, outil).

Liaison

The tongue tip consonants, which we have said are not generally pronounced, do sometimes become pronounced in a process called liaison. This is a complex topic, but the basic idea is that the consonant becomes pronounced before another word beginning with a vowel if that following word is “closely linked” with it grammatically. A typical case of two closely linked words would be an adjective and corresponding noun. So while the n of bon is not pronounced when the word is said in isolation (though it does mark that the o vowel is nasalized), it is pronounced in bon enfant or bon ami. Similarly, the final d of grand is not normally pronounced, but may be pronounced in grand auteur. (Much more rarely, p and r can also participate in liaison, but it is primarily a feature of the tongue tip consonants.)

A slight complication is that the pronunciation of a liaison consonant may actually differ from how you would expect from the written letter. When s is pronounced in liaison (as commonly occurs between a plural adjective and noun), it actually represents a “z” sound, as does a written x. So bons amis is pronounced closer to “bo’ z ami“, with the s on the end of bons pronounced, as a “z” (i.e. liaison with the following vowel), but the s of amis not pronounced (there’s no following vowel, so no reason for liaison). In liaison, d is actually pronounced as a “t”. So grand auteur, if the d is pronounced, would be pronounced “gran-t-auteur”.

A Few More Details and Exceptions

What we have described so far is a rough rule of thumb and it will come as no surprise that there are plenty of exceptions and details to be aware of. It is impossible to go into all of these here, but below are some more detailed rules and patterns that it is worth gradually getting to grips with with certain letters. Firstly some more details regarding the tongue tip consonants:

d: pronounced on the end of sud and one or two names. The letter d occurs silently on the end of many verb forms (e.g. il prend) However, the d is pronounced on the end of a verb form when followed by a pronoun beginning with a vowel (i.e. in inverted forms such as prend-il, vend-on etc). On the end of an adjective such as grand, -d can be pronounced before a noun beginning with a vowel as shown above, although in reality this is rare in everyday speech.

n (sometimes written m): these special consonants usually mark the nasalization of the previous vowel, and are not pronounced as such; but on the end of “learned” words or loanwords, they are liable to be pronounced, e.g. maximum, spécimen;

s: a few common words where the final -s is pronounced include fils (“son”) and mars (“March”/”Mars”). Note that the final -s is pronounced on maïs (“corn”) but not on mais (“but”).

t: this letter occurs on the ends of many adjectives and verb forms, and is not generally pronounced in such cases. But like d, it must be pronounced on the end of a verb when followed by a pronoun beginning with a vowel (i.e. in inverted forms such as fait-il, dit-on etc).

Finally, here are some details regarding various other written consonants when they occur on the end of a French word:

c: practically never pronounced after n on the end of a word (exception: donc), but pronounced on the end of some common short words, notably avec, sac, sec, choc, lac, parc;

f: though usually pronounced, it is not pronounced on the end of clef (commonly written clé nowadays), cerf, nerf, and in the plurals oeufs and boeufs (whereas in the singular oeuf and boeuf, the final -f is pronounced as expected);

p: for the purposes of everyday speech, you can generally assume that -p is never pronounced on the end of a word. A notable exception that intermediate students may come across is handicap. Very occasionally, essentially in very formal speech, it may be pronounced in liaison on the end of trop and beaucoup.

r: usually pronounced when the preceding vowel is not e (car, fleur, tour etc); not pronounced in many cases when it follows an e, notably on the end of an -er verb or on the end of the -er or -ier suffix on a large number of “longer” adjectives and nouns (including job titles such as pompier etc); there are a few common short words ending in -er where it is pronounced, including amer, cher, fer (“iron”), fier (“proud”), hiver, mer.

x: this letter is pronounced, as “ks”, on the end of a handful of “learned” words such as index. Otherwise, it usually occurs as a silent letter-effectively a variant of s-on the end of various common adjectives and nouns. On the end of a plural adjective followed by a noun or adjective beginning with a vowel, along with a few other cases, it is pronounced in the process of liaison described above. As mentioned above, it is then pronounced as a “z” sound. So vieux amis would be pronounced closer to “vieu-z-ami”.

Conclusion

As we have seen, whether or not a final consonant is pronounced on a French word can be tricky but is not completely arbitrary. By learning some rules of thumb, we can gain a good degree of certainty in many common cases.

Learn French Self Study Checklist – Proven Tips To Become Fluent Faster!

Learning French with a software will not be the easiest thing you will do this year, but there is a couple of steps that can dramatically accelerate your learning curve. Anyone can learn everything he needs to speak with French native and if you put your heart in this, you can become fluent in the process.

Self study implies excellent organization skills. What about using a list? I don’t know if you thought about this before, but this will help you tremendously.

Whenever you start studying French, review this list first.

1. The first thing you want to do is to revise the previous lesson. Don’t try to cheat, and make sure that you understood the last course before you start the new one.

Take your time, don’t rush and build your language skills on a solid foundation.

2. Secondly, when you are totally sure that you got it, ask someone to ask you some questions about this lesson. Believe me, most of the time, you think you understood when the truth is that you missed something. That’s why you need a peer that acts as a “control”.

3. Write down the new vocabulary you learn every day on a piece of paper that you will bring with you wherever you go.

4. Intensive Practice. When you discover a new word, you need to pronounce it several times. By doing this, you will pronounce the words and letters more accurately.

5. Don’t forget to get the grammar rule for each lesson. You really need to put extra efforts on French grammar because it is more complex than English grammar

I hope you enjoyed my learn French self study checklist tips. It’s not easy, but if you follow the advice above and have the right software, you will see amazing results.

Tips and Techniques on How to Learn the French Language

Knowing various tips and techniques on how you can easily learn the French language can increase your ability to absorb and really understand the language. There are many basic learning techniques taught in classrooms and from independent programs that can help you memorize and retain the information. One way to effectively retain the information you have acquired from a French language lesson is to apply it into your daily life.

There is no such thing as a “magic formula” when trying or wanting to learn language or any other foreign languages. What it really requires is time, patience and willingness to learn. Incorporating it with the right training and simple techniques, you will be able to learn French language or any other language more efficiently and quickly.

Having a language journal upon starting your language lessons can be very helpful. You can even blog about the things you have learned by trying to compose mini sentences using the new words or phrases that you have acquired from your lessons. Aside from your classroom lessons on French language, you can also use an online French lesson or manual that can be found on the internet. There are various websites who are giving out manuals or audio downloads that can definitely help you learn French language.

When learning French language or any other languages, it is natural for your brain to get tired of studying. When such situation occurs, it is recommended for you to take a break by engaging in various games such as vocabulary games and mind-benders which are available on the internet as this can help you relax your mind. If you force yourself to learn French language even if you are already too tired to do so, you might end up quitting even before you knew how to speak longer phrases in French. So it is essential to learn it one step at a time. If you have already learned a lot or you are already an advanced student, you can try finding games on the internet that uses the French language. This way, you can improve your skills in speaking French in a fun way.

Unlike learning math, history or other subjects where memory is important, learning language requires practice so that you can improve your diction and pronunciation, and to be more familiar with the use of the terms. Knowing and memorizing the entire language vocabulary is useless if you are unable to use it. You can also try recording your voice while speaking in French to see if there is an improvement on your pronunciation, accent and diction.

If you want to learn language on your free time, there are various websites that can provide you online tutorials or lessons. Some of them might require you to pay for a certain amount, so if you are learning French just for fun, find a website that provides a free tutorial instead of wasting money on paid classes that you cannot really attend to. You should also check if the online language tutor you are to pay for is legit to avoid getting scammed. Try to look for feedback or reviews from previous students to know more about the online tutor you are to enroll for.

The Easy & Fast Way to Learning French – Best Tips on How Learn French Fast

You might want to learn French because you intend to travel to France or a French speaking country for work or holiday. You might want to learn French so as to add value to yourself as a student or get yourself ready for that new career breakthrough. Whatever the reason, the fact is you would like to pick up some French fast. Is there any way for us to learn French in a short time? Of course there are. Although it is never easy to learn a foreign language in a short time, it is still possible if you follow our tips on a fast track to learning French.

The fastest way to learn French is to immerse you in the ambiance of the language. The easiest way to do so is to stay in a French speaking country for a few months and try to interact as much as possible with the locals. By forcing yourself to listen and speak French with the native round the clock, you will be able to pick up French in the shortest possible time.

However, not everybody can afford the luxury or time to spend a few months in another country. The next best option is to expose yourself to the French media. Movies, musical CDs, Radios, printed/online articles, newspapers, magazines, book….etc

Picking up a nice Original Version French DVD (best with English subtitles) or musical CDs (with lyrics) will definitely expand your vocabulary. Being able to listen to how the words are pronounced by the native speakers will help to correct your pronunciation. Listening to French radio is also a great way to improve your French, but it might not be suitable for beginners as you might not be able to understand everything without some form of translation.

Reading is also another great way to learning French. If you are beginners, you can start from reading children’s books before moving on to magazines and newspapers. Develop the habits of writing down new words in a note book that you came across and check them up with a French/English dictionary or you could use the easily available Google translate. In no time you will be able to build up your own list of vocabulary.

The best tips of learning French fast are to speak the language, the more you speak, the more you will improve. Making friends with a native French speaker is a great way to improve your French. If you do not have any friends who are French native speaker, you can always look for a study buddy who is also learning French (You can easily get one from the French languages lessons forum).

In the age of the internet, it is not necessary for you to meet up with someone physically in order to learn French. Skype is a good alternative and even by communication on MSN can have a very positive effect on improving your French.

The traditional way of learning French of course is to enroll you for French language courses. There are some good schools that offer good French language courses for all level but it might not be available anywhere near you. The next alternative is to invest in an online French language courses which does not have any geographical limitation. You will have the benefit of learning French at your own pace depending on your progress.

If you need any recommendation on an online French language Courses, why not drop by French Language Lessons to get a great reviewed feedback on a few different online French Language Courses. You can also get a 6 days Free French Language Lessons with absolutely no obligation.