French Liaisons

Liaisons, a word derived from the French verb "lier," meaning "to bind," is the phenomon where the last letter of a word flows into the beginning of the next word as though they were one word. Although not nearly as common in English, we do see this occurence when the word "an" is substitued for "a" when describing a noun that starts with a vowel (e.g., "an apple"). This greatly increases the flow of the language in that context. One could say that the French language is all about flow, which becomes more an more apparent when studying the language. (For example, there are numerous contractions that serve this purpose.) Liaisons in French, then, exist to increase this flow.

Example:

The words "you" and "have," when pronounced separately, are as follows:

You
(formal)
Vous
(v-oo)
Have
(formal 2nd person)
Avez
(ah-vay)

However, when placed together in a sentence, a liaison is formed:

You have
(formal)
Vous avez
(voo-zah-vay)

The s at the end of "vous," which was formerly silent, flows into the a in "avez," causing it to have the "z" sound (see S under French Consonants for more details on its pronunciation).

This is a good example because it demonstrates many commonalities among liaisons. First, a normally silent consonant (see the bottom of French Consonants for details) gains a sound as it flows into the beginning vowel of the next word. Second, the letter s is always pronounced as "z" when part of a liaison. Other consonants see similar changes. See the liaison chart below.

Liaison Consonants

The following are examples of the most common French liaisons. Review each. Listen to the audio, then repeat each out loud.

D


The consonant "D" (sometimes written at "t") makes the sound "T" when used within a French liaison. Consider the following example.

as for
quant

F

The consonant "F" makes the sound "V" when used within a French liaison. Consider the following example.

nine years
neuf ans

G

The consonant "G" makes the sound "G" when used within a French liaison. Consider the following example.

great friend
grand ami

N

The consonant "N" makes the sound "N" when used within a French liaison. Consider the following example.

my friend
mon ami

P

The consonant "P" makes the sound "P" when used within a French liaison. Consider the following example.

too bitter
trop amer

R

The consonant "R" makes the sound "R" when used within a French liaison. Consider the following example.

come with
venir avec

S

The consonant "S" makes the sound "Z" when used within a French liaison. Consider the following example.

without her
sans elle

T

The consonant "T" makes the sound "T" when used within a French liaison. Consider the following example.

can we?
peut-on?

X

The consonant "X" makes the sound "Z" when used within a French liaison. Consider the following example.

ten years
dix ans

Z

The consonant "Z" makes the sound "Z" when used within a French liaison. Consider the following example.

hold on to it
tenez-y

Q

The consonant "Q" makes the sound "Q" when used within a French liaison. Consider the following example.

five years
cinq ans