Should we pronounce them? Are they dumb? Discover everything about the pronunciation of final consonants in French in this article.
The phonetics of French, an exact science for the pronunciation of final consonants?
At the risk of upsetting the phoneticians, I would say that these are rather general principles in French than strict theoretical rules as regards the pronunciation of final consonants. Indeed, even the French can be led to make mistakes when they come across a new word. Some would say that this particularity is what makes the charm of the French language…
Let's discover this non-exhaustive guide together to overcome the difficulty that the French phonological system can pose! But note first of all that these elements of response are only valid in the case where the consonant is not already part of a combination of letters (for example in the case of nasal vowels).
The final consonant is (almost) always pronounced
• The word ends with a -l. This is the case with many adjectives that end in -el or in -al. For example: personal, essential, general, main. This is also the case for some names, such as: honey, evil, salt.
Beware however of the words that end in -it as a tool and nice, the -l is not pronounced in these occurrences.
• If the word ends with a -m and it is not part of a combination to form a nasal vowel, it is probably a word that comes from Latin. In this case, the -m is pronounced of course. Here are some examples: forum, item, referendum, album.
• Words that end in -q are very rare. However, when they exist, the -q is pronounced, as in five and Iraq.
• Words that end in -g are generally words of foreign origin. We then tend to pronounce them as we would pronounce them in the original language. Usually they are pronounced then. For example: grog, iceberg and zigzag. Warning ! We do not pronounce the long adjective -g otherwise it would be a feminine whose spelling is long.
• As for the words which end in -k, they are always words of foreign origin and the -k is always pronounced. For example: anorak, steak, look.
The final consonant is sometimes pronounced
• French has many words that end in -c which are not pronounced. For example: white, crook, stomach, pork, tobacco, trunk. However, one can also find words, generally short, where the -c is pronounced such as: bag, with, stuff, Turkish, park.
• Most of the time, for words ending in -f, this letter is pronounced. We can think in particular of all the adjectives that end -if: active, sporty, puny. But this is also the case for certain names: chef, egg, new. However, other words do not pronounce this letter: clef, nerf, and also the plural of words in -euf (while it is pronounced in the singular): eggs, oxen.
• The case of -r is quite special. It is pronounced for the infinitive of verbs in -IR such as: to sleep, to finish, to reflect but also for the words which end in -er which come from English: leader, dealer and finally for most of the short words like bitter worm or gold iron by on. On the other hand, it is not pronounced for words that end in -er, whether verbs or not: eat, baker, floor.
• The -t in final consonant is sometimes pronounced: tact, gross eight, west, east, sharp, August, sometimes not: respect, cat, pot, desert, night, small. On the other hand, it is not pronounced in words that end in -and: hat, chicken, sachet.
• In the same way, the -s is sometimes pronounced: bus, son, tennis, ace, biceps, march, bear, oasis, sense, corn and sometimes not: but, time, three, no case, without, sometimes.
The final consonant is (almost) never spoken
• The -b is rare in the final consonant. When it comes to a foreign word, it can be pronounced: club, snob, Maghreb. But sometimes not: lead, doctor.
• Apart from the word south, the -d in the final consonant is generally not pronounced: second, duck, cold, large, round, deep.
• Once again, foreign words that end in -p will have a final sound consonant: cap, slip, stop, otherwise it will not be pronounced: a lot, sheet, wolf, too much.
• In final consonant, the -x is generally not pronounced: two, spouse, price, with the exception of Aix and index.
Likewise for the -z, which is found in particular in the words chez and riz, but also in all the endings of verbs in the second person plural: you eat, you sleep, you finish, you take. Note the word gas, which is an exception.