Learn Proper French Pronunciation With Liaisons

Couple on holiday in Valbonne.South of France
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Part of the reason that French pronunciation and aural comprehension are so difficult is due to liaisons. A liaison is a phenomenon whereby a normally silent consonant at the end of a word is pronounced at the beginning of the word that follows it.

Examples of Liaisons

The sound files below show words such as vous (you), which have a silent "s" at the end, unless they are paired with a word like avez (have).

When this occurs, the "s" is pronounced at the beginning of the following word, creating a liaison in French.

In each instance, the words on the left contain a silent letter at the end; the words on the right show how the usually silent letter at the end of the word is pronounced at the beginning of the following word, creating a liaison. The word or words are followed by a transliteration to help you pronounce the terms and phrases as you hear them.

French Word With a Final Silent Consonant

Liaison

vous  [vu]

vous avez  [vu za vay]

ont  [o(n)]

ont-ils  [o(n) teel]

un   [uh(n)]

un homme  [uh(n) nuhm]

les   [lay]

les amis  [lay za mee]

Pronunciation Key

Use this pronunciation key as a guide to help you get the most out of the previous sound files.

a  father
e  bed
ee  meet
u  fool
(n)  nasal n

In addition, consonants in liaisons sometimes change the pronunciation. For example, an "s" is pronounced like a "z" when it is used in a liaison.

Liaison Rules

The basic requirement of a liaison is a word that ends in a normally silent consonant followed by a word that begins with a vowel or mute h. This does not mean, however, that all possible liaisons are necessarily pronounced. In fact, the pronunciation (or not) of liaisons is subject to very specific rules, and liaisons are divided into three categories:

  1. Required liaisons (Liaisons obligatoires)
  2. Forbidden liaisons (Liaisons interdites)
  3. Optional liaisons (Liaisons facultatives)

If you are a beginner, study just the required liaisons and forbidden liaisons, as these are the essential. If you're more advanced, study all three sections. It may be boring, but your pronunciation and ability to communicate at different levels of formality will improve dramatically.

Liaison vs. Enchantment

There is a related phenomenon in French called enchaînement (linking). The difference between enchaînement and liaisons is this: Liaisons occur when the final consonant is normally silent but is pronounced due to the vowel that follows it (vous vs. vous avez), whereas enchaînement occurs when the final consonant is pronounced whether or not a vowel follows it, such as pour vs. pour elle, which translates as "for" vs. "for her."

Note that enchaînement is simply a phonetic issue, while the pronunciation of liaisons is based on linguistic and stylistic factors. Additionally, scan the pronunciation chart below to see how various letters are generally pronounced in French liaisons.

LetterSound
D[t]
F[v]
G[g]
N[n]
P[p]
R[r]
S[z]
T[t]
X[z]
Z[z]
Format
mla apa chicago
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ThoughtCo. "Learn Proper French Pronunciation With Liaisons." ThoughtCo, Mar. 5, 2018, thoughtco.com/learn-proper-french-pronunciation-liaisons-4083657. ThoughtCo. (2018, March 5). Learn Proper French Pronunciation With Liaisons. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/learn-proper-french-pronunciation-liaisons-4083657 ThoughtCo. "Learn Proper French Pronunciation With Liaisons." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/learn-proper-french-pronunciation-liaisons-4083657 (accessed April 23, 2018).