Languages › French French Rhythm or Le Rythme Share Flipboard Email Print Chris Hellier/Getty Images French Pronunciation & Conversation Vocabulary Grammar Resources For Teachers By Staff Author Updated November 10, 2019 You've probably noticed, or at least heard others say, that the French language is very musical. The reason for this is that in French there are no stress marks on words: all syllables are pronounced at the same intensity (volume). In addition, many final consonants are liaised or "enchaînés" onto the next word. The lack of stress marks combined with liaisons and enchaînements are what give French its rhythm: all of the words flow together like music. In contrast, English words each have a stressed syllable, which makes English sound comparatively choppy or staccato. (This is purely from a linguistic point of view, not a judgment about which language sounds "prettier.") Instead of stressed and unstressed syllables, French sentences are divided into rhythmic groups (groupes rythmiques or mots phonétiques). A rhythmic group is a group of syntactically-related words in a sentence.* There are three basic kinds: Nominal (noun) groups Verbal groups Prepositional groups *Note that since the individual words within rhythmic groups are syntactically related, they are usually subject to required liaisons. The last syllable of each rhythmic group is accentuated in two ways. Intonation Intonation refers to the pitch of someone's voice. The last syllable of each rhythmic group inside the sentence is pronounced at a higher pitch than the rest of the sentence, while the final rhythmic group's final syllable is pronounced at a lower pitch. The only exceptions to this are questions: in this case, the last rhythmic group's final syllable is also at a high pitch. Tonic Accent The French tonic accent is a slight elongation of the final syllable in each rhythmic group. Rhythmic groups normally have up to 7 syllables, but this varies according to how quickly they are being spoken. If a sentence is spoken very quickly, some of the shorter rhythmic groups may be joined together. For example, Allez-vous au théâtre? is short enough that you might choose to pronounce it as a single rhythmic group rather than Allez-vous | au théâtre? The following chart shows how rhythmic groups fit together. Click on the Listen links to hear each sentence pronounced at two different speeds. Due to the (lack of) quality of internet sound, we exaggerated the accentuation in the slow version. Please remember that this is just a guide to help you better understand rhythm and improve your French listening and speaking skills. Nominal group Verbal group Prepositional Listen David et Luc | veulent vivre | au Mexique. slow normal Mon mari Étienne | est prof d'anglais | à Casablanca. slow normal Un étudiant | est arrivé. slow normal Nous parlons | d'un film. slow normal Allez-vous | au théâtre ? slow normal Cite this Article Format mla apa chicago Your Citation Author, Staff. "French Rhythm or Le Rythme." ThoughtCo, May. 12, 2021, thoughtco.com/understanding-french-rhythm-1369588. Author, Staff. (2021, May 12). French Rhythm or Le Rythme. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/understanding-french-rhythm-1369588 Author, Staff. "French Rhythm or Le Rythme." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/understanding-french-rhythm-1369588 (accessed May 18, 2021). copy citation How to Pronounce More Than 2,500 Words in French Top French Pronunciation Mistakes and Difficulties How to Fake a French Accent Using Enchainement in French Pronunciation How to Pronounce the French 'X' Top 10 Advanced French Mistakes Learn Proper French Pronunciation With Liaisons How Is 'EU' Pronounced in French? Why Spanish Isn't Easier to Learn Than French How to Conjugate the Irregular French Verb "Haïr" Learn How to Conjugate the French Verb 'Aller' How Is 'S' Pronounced in French? How Is 'O' Pronounced in French? 3 Fun And Common French Idioms With Animals The French Pronunciation of E How Is the Letter 'A' Pronounced in French?