French elision - When to use an apostrophe in French?
In French, we tend to avoid any “hiatus” (the pronunciation of two consecutive vowels).
Therefore, we use elisions (French apostrophe) or liaisons.
It is an important aspect of the French pronunciation, and it gives to the language all its beauty!
Table of content
What is an elision in French? (the apostrophe in French)
A French elision is the dropping of one (or several) vowel(s), in order to link two words together.
They may be used when a word ending in a vowel comes before a word beginning with a vowel or a “mute” h.
A French apostrophe is then used to indicate that a vowel has been dropped. Here’s an example:
In the following chapters, you'll learn the different kinds of French elisions, and when you should use an apostrophe in French.
In particular, you'll discover the difference between:
- written and unwritten elisions.
- mandatory and optional elisions.
Mandatory elisions in French
A final E is never pronounced before a word beginning with a vowel
In French, whenever a word ending in e comes before a word beginning with a vowel,
you should NEVER pronounce the final e.
There can be two different reasons for that:
- either the final e is always silent (also read the post: Silent letters in French). In such cases, we don't use any apostrophe in French, as it is the usual pronunciation of the word (not an elision).
- or the final e is usually pronounced, and we add an apostrophe when it comes before a word beginning with a vowel (elision).
Listen to the following examples:
On the other hand, in the word le, the vowel e is usually pronounced, but an elision occurs when this word comes before a vowel. We then add an apostrophe in French.
Elisions with the vowel E (the most frequent)
There are mandatory elisions with the monosyllabic words ending in e.
The following words lose their final e, and an apostrophe is added when they come before a vowel or a mute h.
Mandatory elisions with the other vowels
In French, mandatory elisions are not common with the other vowels.
But, here are two examples with the words si (if) and la (the, feminine):
Some lexicalized expressions with elisions in French
Some words have inherited from the rules above. They now form a unique word, but they used to be a combination of words.
Here are two very common examples:
Optional elisions in French
In casual French, extra elisions are very common.
These French elisions are not mandatory though. They are not written either.
Here is an example (casual pronunciation):
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Work on your French pronunciation with a collection of posts with examples and audio recordings.