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Hi everyone.
Welcome to The Ultimate French Pronunciation Guide.
In this lesson, we'll cover liaisons in French.
To put it simply, you can think of liaisons as linking words together.
Liaisons remove the break that would normally exist in between words, and it's because of this very quality which makes French sound like a stream of connecting words.
It's also one of the main reasons why spoken French can be difficult to understand.
"HOW TO USE LIAISONS" So, how do we connect words together in French?
Take this word for example.
How would you pronounce this word?
Vous (you)
Notice that the S is silent in this word.
Vous (you)
In many cases, the final consonant isn't usually pronounced.
There are many words in French that contain silent letters such as this.
If we introduce another word however.
avez (have)
Together, it becomes
Vous avez (you have)
Notice how the S is no longer silent, but is instead pronounced as the onset of the next syllable in the connecting word.
In other words, you have to pronounce the letter S as if it were the *first letter* of the next word.
Also realize that the S isn't pronounced as ssss, but zzzzz when connecting to the following word.
Vous avez (you have)
Now, let's cover some of the rules which govern what sounds will turn into which, when bridging from one word to the next.
Words that end with the letters S, Z or X...
les (the [plural])
venez (come)
faux (false)
...will use a Z sound.
les enfants (the children)
venez ici (come here)
faux amis (false friends)
Words that end with the letters T or D...
tout (everything)
grand (tall)
...will use a T sound.
tout homme (every man)
grand homme (tall man)
Words that end with the letter N...
un (a [masculine])
...will still use an N sound.
un ami (a [male] friend)
Words that end with the letter F...
neuf (nine)
...will use a V sound.
neuf ans (nine years)
Words that end with the letter L...
gentil (nice [masculine])
...will use a Y sound.
gentil enfant (nice child)
There are only a few rules to remember, so memorizing them should be quite easy, though very worthwhile.
"WHEN TO USE LIAISONS" Now you know how to use liasons. So let's move onto WHEN you should use them.
The biggest rule, is that you can only use liaisons where the preceding word ends with one of the previously mentioned consonants,
if the following word begins with a vowel sound, or a Y sound.
This means that you never connect the ending consonant sound of a word, with the beginning consonant sound of a following word.
Only potential liaison consonant sounds connect with a vowel or Y sound.
If this is still true for a particular set of words, then pre-dominantly one of the following rules will apply in order for liaisons to occur.
After pronouns, for example...
Vous avez (you have)
les enfants (the children)
les abricots (the apricot)
Between single syllable adverbs, conjunctions, and prepositions
Chez elle (into her home)
bien utile (really convenient)
Between numbers and nouns
Six ans (six years)
trois amis (three friends)
After determiners
Mon amie (my [female] friend)
ton avion (your plane [informal])
After preceding adjectives
Beaux yeux (beautiful eyes)
gentils enfants (nice children [masculine])
And Idiomatic expressions
c'est-à-dire (that is to say)
Not all words can be linked together in French. Some breaks are needed.
For example, you shouldn't link complete clauses together.
Ils parlent et j'écoute. (They talk and I listen)
After the word 'and'
un enfant et son ami (incorrect)
un enfant et son ami (correct)
After singular nouns
un garçon aimable (incorrect)
un garçon aimable (correct)
And after aspirated H's.
The word 'how' in English, contains an aspirated H-sound.
un haricot (incorrect)
un haricot (correct)
Be careful though, because liaisons can still occur at the beginning of words that contain a silent H.
The word 'hour' in English, contains a silent H-sound.
So there is still a potential for a liaison to occur in words that begin with a silent H, because the initial syllable is vowel sounding. For example...
tout homme (every man)
"QUIZ TIME" It's time to test what you've learnt!
How would you pronounce the following?
Vous avez de la chance. (You are lucky.)
Remember, the once silent S takes on a Z sound when it connects to another word.
How about this one?
Neuf heures (nine o'clock)
The F takes on a V sound.
And the final one is...
Ils mangent et lisent. (They [masculine] eat and read.)
Remember, you can't link after 'and'.
How did you do? Did you get them all right?
Don't worry about it too much if you didn't. You'll get used to liaisons quickly the more you hear and practice French. It'll be like second nature to you in no time!
In this lesson, you learnt about liaisons in French.
In the next lesson, you'll learn about French rhythm.
Do you have liaisons in your language? Please comment and share your thoughts.
See you in the next Ultimate French Pronunciation Guide lesson!