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How to know when to pronounce the final letter of a word in French?

Someone building words with wooden letters

I'm always told it's very hard to read French because half the letters aren't pronounced.

First of all, you are right.

There are a lot of unspoken letters in French, and combinations of letters with other sounds.

But reading in English isn't easy either.

Know - where did the sound K go?

NIGHT - What's going on with GH?

And if you think otherwise, it's just that English is your mother tongue or that you're used to hearing English and reading it.

What does that mean, actually? This means that you need to learn and get used to some rules about pronunciation and letters and you will see that it will be much easier for you to know when to pronounce a final letter in French.

Today, I want to give you some rules to read in French, especially the last letters.

(Please note that there are many exceptions. If it wasn’t unusual, it would be boring, right?)

How and when to pronounce the final letters in a French word ?

First rule - if it's not a vowel, then don't pronounce it

(vowels are a, e, i, o, u)

That's why we ask every day

ça va ?

and not

[ç v] ?

We also say

joli [joli]

But we say

salut [salu]

sport [spor]

pas [pa]

Second rule - the special letter E

Contrary to what I said above (oh, come on, Delphine… you’re already starting with the exceptions…), the letter e is not pronounced if it is the final letter of the word.

But the letter e with an accent é is pronounced, with an open mouth as in a smile.

That's why you have to pronounce my first name Delphine: [delfin] and not [delphin☺] or anything like that.

But the first name André is pronounced [andr☺] and not [andr].

Third rule - the letters C, L and F are pronounced

If they appear as a final letter, they are pronounced!

For example

sac [sak] (bag)

sportif [ sportif] (sportive)

journal [journal] (newspaper)

Fourth rule - the annoying letter R

Why is it annoying? Because sometimes it's pronounced, and sometimes it's not. Depends on the word.

I know, it's not helping you.

Believe me, it's not easy for me either, because I can't tell you when to pronounce it and when not.

I will give you some examples to try to help you (but I won't take any responsibility...)

parler [par☺] (to speak) - not pronounced

mer [mer] (sea) - pronounced

dernier [derni☺] (last) - not pronounced

cher [cher] (expensive) - pronounced

Great, right?

Fifth and last rule - every other letter is non pronounced

It means you don't pronounced the letter D, G, M, N, P, S, T, X, Z if they appear as a final letter.

tard [tar] (late)

parfum [parfa] (perfume)

bon [bo] (good)

trop [tro] (too much)

gras [gra] (fat)

petit [ peti] (small)

nouveaux [nuvo] (new)

nez [n☺] (nose)

Anyone who knows how to count must have noticed that some letters are missing.

That's right. First of all, there are some letters that do not appear as a final letter in French, or rarely (K, W…).

And then there's the letter B, which is not pronounced in principle, but most of the common words in the French language with B at the end come from foreign languages and therefore you do pronounce them: CLUB, KEBAB, PUB...

To conclude


a, é, i, o, u, c, l, f - we pronounce

r - sometimes yes, sometimes no

all the other letters -  we don't pronounce

I already can see you've lost hope, so it's important to me to say that it's not the end of the world if you pronounce the final letter (when you don't have to).

If you encounter a French person who isn't nice, he will simply pretend that he didn't understand you (even though he certainly understood you). And if you run into me -and I'm a super nice French person - it will be ok if I hear you pronouncing the T of SPORT but... Only 10 times. After that, I won't control myself.

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