French Pronunciation: Liaison

Linking syllables in French

This tutorial presents an overview of the rules of European/metropolitan French pronunciation, focusing on the vowels, consonants, stress, and intonation patterns that are different from American English. For more practice with comprehension and pronunciation, please check the listening and repetition exercises.

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For more French learning through authentic videos, I recommend Yabla French and FluentU. For audiobooks and lessons of modern French, try French Today. I've recommended some French books at Amazon, and Interlinear books are great for learning French by reading literal translations in English. Need even more French? Try the French courses at Udemy

French Liaison

A loss of word boundaries in French makes it difficult to comprehend the spoken language for beginning learners. All of the words seem to be linked together without any clear divisions because the syllable boundaries do not correspond to the word boundaries. In many cases, the last consonant from one syllable (which is usually silent) will become the first consonant of the next syllable (therefore, it is no longer silent). This linking between syllables is called liaison, and it may or may not be required and the pronunciation of the consonant may or may not change. Liaison leads to many homonymous phrases, which can hinder comprehension. You must pay attention to the liaisons in verb conjugations as well or you may mistake one verb for another.

The written consonants involved in liaison generally include d, s, x and p. However, the pronunciation of d, s, and x is changed so that they become [t], [z] and [z], respectively. The letter n that is written after nasal vowels becomes the nasal consonant [n]. Peculiarly, the f of neuf is pronounced [v] only before ans and heures and in all other cases, it remains [f]. Remember that h aspiré prevents liaison from happening, i.e. there is no [z] sound between des and haricots.


Examples of Liaison

elles arrivent mon amour
ils ont les ours
vieux arbres dans un sac
dix heures très aimable
attend-il ? plus ouvert
grand ami il est allé

There are a few instances when you should always use liaison (liaison obligatoire):

  1. after determiners: un, les, des, ces, mon, ton, quels, etc.
  2. before or after pronouns: nous, vous, ils, elles, les, etc.
  3. after preceding adjectives: bon, mauvais, petit, grand, gros, etc.
  4. after monosyllabic prepositions: chez, dans, sous, en, etc.
  5. after some monosyllabic adverbs: très, plus, bien, etc. (optional after pas, trop, fort)
  6. after est (optional after all other forms of être)

 

French Phonetics: Learn French Pronunciation



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