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How to pronounce ILLE and IL in French

ILLE and IL in French

The letters IL and ILL often combine to form a unique sound in French.

But not always…

Discover when these combinations occur and how to pronounce them!

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When does the combination il occur in French?

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The combination of letters il sometimes form a unique sound, similar to the y sound in the word (a boy). But it only happens when il comes at the end of a word, after the vowels a, e or u.

Combination IL in French

At the end of a word, after the vowels a, e and u, the two letters i and l combine to form a unique sound.

Here are some examples:

l'ail (the garlic)

un appareil (a device)

un écureuil (a squirrel)

The only exceptions to this rule are loanwords, like un cocktail (a cocktail) or un e-mail (an e-mail) which are pronounced as in English.

When I And L Don't Combine

Even when they come at the end of a word, the letters i and l don’t always combine.

Indeed, they will ususally be pronounced separately, after a consonant, or after the vowel o.

For example:

avril (April)

du persil (parsley)

un poil (a hair)

There are only three exceptions to this rule.

In the three following words, the final l can almost be considered as a silent letter:

un fusil (a gun)

un outil (a tool)

gentil (nice)

Two More Words...

It is worth considering two more words, which don’t fit in either case above. In the word il (he / it), the consonant l is pronounced separately. There is no combination:

il chante (he's singing')

And in the word un fils (a son), the letter l is silent:

un fils (a son)

What about the combined letters ill?

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The Letters IL Only Combine At The End Of A Word

So far, we’ve seen that the letters i and l may combine at the end of a word.

However, they will not combine inside a word. Even after the vowels a, e or u.

The combination will be “broken”. Here is an example:

une aile (a wing)

Combination ILL

But you may wonder…

What if we want to get the same y sound inside a word?

In such cases, we’ll need to use the combination ill.

Hear are two examples:

je travaille (I'm working)

une fille (a girl)


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