Silent letters in French

Silent letters in French

Silent letters in French

I am sure you have already noticed that, in French, we don’t write the same way we speak.
This is due to all the silent letters in French words.
Let’s see what these letters are.

 

At the beginning or inside a word

The letter H

We never pronounce the letter H in French, except when it’s associated with c, then it transforms in the sound “ch”.
However, we have two kinds of H: the “strong H” and the “soft H”. The soft H accepts a “liaison”, the strong one doesn’t (I’ll write an article very soon on that subject).
Neither of them is pronounced.

The letter U

Don’t pronounce it after G or Q :
Un quartier [kartie]
Une guerre [Ger]

And also, be careful: OU is a special sound different from U.

The letter N

Don’t pronounce it when it’s associated with another letter to create a nasal sound:
EN/AN/IN/ON/OM etc.
( > Watch my video about nasal sounds in French.)

The letter I

Don’t pronounce it after O because OI is pronounced WA.


At the end of a word

The letter E

Don’t pronounce it at the end of a word except if there is an accent on top of it: é
(Watch my video about that subject if you want more details about the pronunciation of E)

The letter S

We use it a lot at the end of the words to indicate the plural. Don’t pronounce it.

Also, some words end with S but are not plural. You still don’t pronounce the final S.
Examples: autrefois, un avis, un bras, une brebis, un colis, un corps, un dos, un héros, jamais, un jus, un mois, un poids, un refus, le repos, une souris, un tapis, le temps, volontiers, etc.
( formerly, an opinion, an arm, a sheep, a parcel, a body, a back, a hero, never, a juice, a month, a weight, a refusal, rest, a mouse, a carpet, time, willingly)

And finally, don’t pronounce it at the end of the verbs:
For example: tu parles, nous parlons, je parlais, je parlerais.
(you speak, we speak, I spoke, I would spoke.)

The letter X

Don’t pronounce it at the end.
It’s quite frequent, we can find it:

  • At the end of these nouns: un choix, une croix, un époux, le houx, une noix, la paix, une perdrix, un prix, une toux, une voix.
    (a choice, a cross, a husband, a holly, a walnut, peace, a partridge, a prize, a cough, a voice.)
  • At the end of some plural : des choux, des bijoux, des cailloux, des genoux, des poux, des joujoux, des hiboux.
    (cabbages, jewels, pebbles, knees, lice, toys, owls.)
  • At the end of many adjectives : délicieux, joyeux, heureux, merveilleux, doux, jaloux, roux etc.
    (delicious, happy, happy, wonderful, soft, jealous, red hair etc.)
  • At the end of some verbs: je peux, tu peux, je veux, tu veux
    (I can, you can, I want, you want).

The letter T

It’s most of the time mute at the end of a verb:

  • Examples 1 (before a vowel): un achat, le climat, un chat, un habit, un lit, un récit, étroit, un toit, un bruit, un enduit, minuit, un capot, un escargot, un matelot, un robot, souvent, un point, un bout, etc
    (a purchase, the climate, a cat, a coat, a bed, a story, narrow, a roof, a noise, a coating, midnight, a hood, a snail, a sailor, a robot, often, a point, one end)
  • Examples 2 (before an R) : l’art, un départ, un concert, un désert, un dessert, un confort, un effort, un port, un tort, court etc.
    (art, a departure, a concert, a desert, a dessert, a comfort, an effort, a port, a wrongdoing, short etc.)
  • Examples 3 (we don’t pronounce the C and the T): aspect, respect, irrespect, suspect.
    (appearance, respect, disrespect, suspect)
  • Examples 4 (at the end of the verbs) : il finit, il finissait, il finirait, ils finiraient etc.
    (he finishes, I finished, he would finish, they would finish)

The letter D

We find it at the end of some words :

  • -aud : chaud, un crapaud, costaud, etc.
    (hot, a toad, beefy)
  • -and: un allemand, un gland, grand, un goéland, un gourmand, normand, etc.
    (a German, an acorn, a big, a gull, a gourmand, a Norman, etc.)
  • -ard: un brassard, un boulevard, un brouillard, un canard, un dossard, un hasard, un homard, un léopard, un retard, etc.
    (an armband, a boulevard, a fog, a duck, a bib, a chance, a lobster, a leopard, a delay, etc.)
  • -ond : un bond, un fond, un plafond, etc.
    (a leap, a bottom, a ceiling, etc .)
  • -ord : un accord, un bord, le nord, un record, etc.
    (an agreement, an edge, the north, a record)
  • -ourd : lourd, sourd.
    (heavy: heavy, deaf.)

The letter G

We don’t pronounce it at the end.

For example: un bourg, un faubourg, un coing, un étang, un hareng, long, un poing, sang,
(A small village, a suburb, a quince, a pond, a herring, long, a fist, blood).

Except in words ending with ING, then we pronounce it like in English:
Le shopping, le jogging, le footing, le dressing, le planning, le dancing, le crowdfunding, le zapping, le shooting, le rafting etc.
> We like words ending with ING, we find them very cool 😊

The letter P

We don’t pronounce it at the end.

For example: prompt, sept, beaucoup, un champ, un coup, un drap, un galop, un loup, un sirop, trop.
(prompt, seven, many, a field, a blow, a sheet, a gallop, a wolf, a syrup, too.)

Neither at the end of some verbs: il interrompt, il corrompt, il rompt.
(he interrupts, he corrupts, he breaks.)

Voilà! I know that’s a lot 😊

French is a very nostalgic and conservative language in the sense that it has kept, throughout its history, many letters that were no longer used.

 

Direct and indirect pronouns in French

Direct and indirect pronouns in French

Direct and indirect pronouns in French

Presentation

A pronoun replaces a noun or a nominal group.

collègue : a noun
un collègue sympa : a nominal group
un collègue de travail : a nominal group

When you don’t want to repeat a word many times (which is boring), you replace it with a pronoun.

J’ai un collègue. Ce collègue est sympa et efficace. Je parle souvent à ce collègue et j’écoute toujours ce collègue.

> In this sentence you have too many repetitions of “collègue”. let’s transform it :

J’ai un collègue, il est sympa et efficace. Je lui parle souvent et je l’écoute toujours.

direct and indirect The repetitions have been replaced by different pronouns :

  • il is a subject pronoun
  • lui    is an indirect pronoun
  • l’      is a direct pronoun

Now you know why we use pronouns, let’s learn when we use direct and indirect pronouns.

Indirect pronouns

Indirect pronouns replace indirect objects.
An indirect object is a nominal group that is connected to the verb through the preposition à.

Je parle  à ma nouvelle collègue.
> Je lui parle.

J’obéis à mon chef.
> Je lui obéis.

Je fais confiance à tous mes collègues.
> Je leur fais confiance.

You can ask the question: Je parle à qui? (I talk to whom ?)
> There is the preposition à between the verb and the object, therefore it’s an indirect object.

Unfortunately, sometimes a French verb uses the preposition à, but the equivalent verb in English doesn’t have a preposition. That can be confusing for you :
Je téléphone à mon ami – I phone my friend (and not I phone to my friend).
So, you need to know the French verbs that use the preposition à before an indirect object:

For example :
téléphoner à, parler à, obéir à, manquer à, plaire à, écrire à, sourire à, ressembler à, faire confiance à etc.

direct and indirect

Direct pronouns

Direct pronouns replace direct objects.
A direct object is a nominal group that is directly connected to the verb without a preposition.

Je comprends mon collègue.
> Je le comprends.

J’écoute ce collègue.
> Je l’écoute.

Je comprends l’opinion de mon collègue.
> Je la comprends.

J’écoute mes collègues de travail.
> Je les écoute.

You can ask the question: Je comprends qui? Je comprends quoi? (I understand who? I understand what?)
> There is NO preposition between the verb and the object , therefore it’s a direct object.

Summary

 masculine
singular
feminine
singular
Plural
masculine and feminine
 
Direct pronounsle
l' (before a vowel)
la
l' (before a vowel)
les
Indirect pronounsluiluileur

Good to know

Many verbs accept both indirect and direct objects :

Il écrit un mail à son chef.

“un mail” is direct: il écrit quoi? > un mail (He writes what? > an e-mail).
” à son chef” is indirect: il écrit à qui? > à son chef (He writes to whom? > to his boss).
You can replace these objects with their pronouns :

Il lui écrit un mail (He writes an e-mail to him)
Il l’écrit à son chef (He writes it to his boss)
And even :
Il le lui écrit   🙂   (He writes it to him.)

In French, the pronouns are BEFORE the verb.

Voilà! I hope this lesson is clear to you. Don’t hesitate to ask me questions!
A bientôt.
Elsa

Imparfait et passé-composé, quelle différence?

Imparfait et passé-composé, quelle différence?

Imparfait et passé-composé, quelle différence?

TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE :

 

 

SOME EXPLANATIONS :

The imparfait and the passé-composé are the two main tenses of the French language that are necessary to express yourself in the past.

They should not be confused with the simple past and the past perfect in English because the logic of the past in French is very different from the English.

So let’s deep into the French logic.

 

WHEN YOU TELL A STORY IN THE PAST

When you tell a story, you need to differentiate two elements: the main actions and the background. The main actions are told in the passé-composé. The background in the imparfait. The background is the context of the story  :

  • the description of the environnement,
  • the description of the people,
  • the emotions of the people,
  • your own emotions.

For example, let’s start a story with some actions :

J’ai mis mon manteau et je suis sortie, je suis allée au cinéma, j’ai regardé un film, j’ai mangé un sandwitch et je suis rentrée chez moi.

Here, you have six actions in the passé-composé. The story is logic and understandable, but lacks depth, lacks information. We need to set the background. So, let’s add some imparfait to this story.

Il faisait beau mais un peu froid donc j’ai mis mon manteau. C’était un long manteau noir discret et confortable. Je suis sortie au cinéma parce que je voulais me détendre. J’étais un peu stressée à cause de mon travail. J’ai regardé un film qui était très intéressant. Les acteurs jouaient très bien. Comme j’avais faim mais qu’il y avait trop de monde au restaurant, j’ai mangé un sandwich. Il était 22 heures et j’étais fatiguée donc je suis rentrée chez moi. C’était une très belle journée.

Now that you read the story with all these details, don’t you think it’s more interesting?
So, you can tell a story with the passé-composé only (that’s why we learn it first), but a really nice story needs both tenses: imparfait and passé-composé.

past in French I could stop here, but there is other information about those tenses I need to tell you.

 

A HABIT IN THE PAST

If you want to express a habit in the past, you also need to use the imparfait.

Quand j’étais petite, j’allais chaque week-end chez ma grand-mère.
(When I was little, I used to go and see my grand-mother every week-end.)

But be carefull, if there is a repetition of action in a specified time (with a beginning and an end) we use the passé-composé.

La semaine dernière, je suis allée trois fois chez ma grand-mère.
(Last week, I went to see my grand-mother three times.)

Here, we use the passé-composé because it’s not a habit in the past, it’s a repetition of the same action in a determined time (la semaine dernière).

habit past french

 

 

 

AN ACTION IN PROGRESS

Here is a very specific way to use the imparfait and the passé-composé :

When an action is in progress (imparfait) interrupted by another action (passé-composé). Don’t panic, I’ll give you some examples :

Je marchais dans la rue, quand soudain il a commencé à pleuvoir.
(I was walking in the street, when suddenly it started to rain.)
Je regardais un film, quand tout à coup mon téléphone a sonné.
(I was watching a film, when all of a sudden my phone rang.)

You noticed that the first verb is in the imparfait: it’s an action in progress in the past. Sometimes we add the expression “en train de” to insist on the fact that it is a progressive action :

J’étais en train de regarder un film, quand mon téléphone a sonné.

The second action is in the passé-composé because it’s a specific action interrupting the first one. Very often we will use a word to express this interruption: soudain, tout à coup, quand, à cet instant etc.

picture progress French

 

 

 

CHARACTERIZATION OF A PERSON

We’ve said previously that we use the imparfait for the description of a person in the past.

 Il avait peur des chiens, il aimait les fleurs …

That’s right, except if you talk about a momentary change in a person’s emotional state due to a specific event (same logic as before).

Il a eu peur quand le chien a aboyé.
(He was afraid when the dog barked).
Il a aimé les fleurs que tu as achetées.
(He liked the flowers that you bought).

picture mental health Voilà! I hope it’s clearer for you now.
Don’t hesitate to ask your questions in the comments.
A bientôt!

Elsa