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French H - mute and aspirated H

French H

Both types of H (mute or aspirated) are silent in French.

The difference between the two H's resides in the way they interact with the other words.

A mute H allows elisions and liaisons, but not an aspirated H.

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The French h is always silent

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If you hear a list of words beginning with the letter h in French, you won’t be able to tell if they begin with an “aspirated” h or a “mute” h.

Both types of h are silent in French.

However, a “mute” h will allow an elision or a liaison with the preceding word (an article, for example). Not an aspirated h.

Here are two examples for you to hear the difference.

un haricot (a bean)

un hôtel (a hotel)

Elisions and liaisons are forbidden with the word haricot ("aspirated" h).

But they occur with the word hôtel ("mute" h).

In the example above, the final n in un is pronounced (liaison).

To learn more, you may read the posts on liaisons and elisions.

How to recognize the two types of French h (mute and aspitated)

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In French, some words have a “mute” h and others contain an “aspirated” h.

There is no logic behind it. Therefore, you’ll need to know the words beforehand to know their kind.

Most paper dictionaries indicate the type of h for each word. An “aspirated” h is often marked with an asterisk (*) or an apostrophe (‘).

Words with an aspirated h are rather the exception. Here are the most common ones:

The letter combination ch in French

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The French h combines to the letter c to form the same sound as in the English word (a T-shirt).

The combinations sh and sch also form the same sound, but they are less common in French.

For example:

le chat (the cat)

To learn more about this sound, you may read this article: How to pronounce the sounds CH and SCH.


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