What letters are not pronounced in French? 

May 31, 2024 by Mylene in Pronunciation Lessons

The topic of silent letters in French refers to the phenomenon where certain letters or combinations of letters are not pronounced when spoken aloud. Despite being written, these letters are effectively silent in spoken French, making them an interesting aspect of the language’s orthography.

Silent letters are very common in French. But fortunately, you only need to know a few rules to know which letters are most often silent in French. The list of unspoken letters in French includes the vowel E, which is the most frequent vowel, as well as the letters h, d, g, m, n, p, s, t, x, z. This article explores the various exceptions and special cases that exist, shedding light on the complexities of silent letter pronunciation in French.

The letter E

E is the only vowel that can be silent in French. In standard French pronunciation, the e is silent:

Inside the word

  • Avenue is pronounced av’nue [av.ny] 
  • Petit is pronounced p’tit [pti]

At the end of the word

  • Marche is pronounced march’ [maʁʃ]
  • Une is pronounced un’ [yn]

Between 3 consonants

The E is only pronounced to separate a block of consonants.

  • Mercredi cannot be pronounced mercr’di because of the three consonants “rcrd“. It’s pronounced [mɛʁ.kʁə.di]
  • Je le dis cannot be pronounced j’l’dis because of the three consonants “jld“. It’s pronounced j’le dis [ʒlə.di] or je l’dis [ʒəl.di].

The south of France

In southern French pronunciations, the e is usually pronounced.

Inside the word

  • Avenue is pronounced a-ve-nue [a.və.ny] 
  • Petit is pronounced pe-tit [pə .ti]

At the end of the word

  • Marche is pronounced mar-che [maʁ.ʃə]
  • Une is pronounced u-ne [y.nə]

And the block consonants are all separated:

  • Je le dis is pronounced je-le-dis [ʒə.lə.di].

In the poems

When reciting a poem, the e’s that precede a consonant are not silent. They must be pronounced:

“Sous le pont Mirabeau coule la Seine

Et nos amours

Faut-il qu’il m’en souvienne

La joie venait toujours après la peine.“

Extrait du Pont Mirabeau de Guillaume Apollinaire
  • Correct pronunciation : Sous-le-pont-Mi-ra-beau-cou-le-la-Seine. There are 10 syllables.
  • Wrong prononciation : Sous-le-pont-Mi-ra-beau-coul’-la-Seine. There are 9 syllables.

For more tips on elevating your French listening skills, check out the tips to improve your oral comprehension.

The letter H

At the beginning of a word

The silent h always precedes a vowel. It authorizes the connection between this vowel and the consonant which ends the previous word:

  • Un hôtel [ɛ̃.no.tɛl].
  • Deux heures [dø.zœʁ].

We find the silent h before all vowels.

The aspirated h prohibits making a connection with the consonant which ends the previous word:

  • Un héros [ɛ̃.e.ʁo].
  • Deux hangars [dø.ɑ̃.gaʁ].

Inside the word

If the letter H is preceded by a consonant other than P and C then the H is silent.

  • Bonheur [bo.nœʁ].
  • Inhumain [i.ny.mɛ̃].

Between two vowels, the H indicates that both vowels must be pronounced:

  • Trahir [tʁa.iʁ].

Silent consonants, other than h, are most often found at the end of words.

The letter d

The consonant d is silent at the end of words ending with:

-ard :

  • Le retard [lə.ʁə.taʁ].
  • Le boulevard [lə.bul.vaʁ].

Other endings:

-and :

  • Allemand [al.mɑ̃].
  • Grand [gʁɑ̃].

-aud :

  • Chaud [ʃo].
  • Costaud [kɔs.to].

-ond :

  • Second [sə.gɔ̃].
  • Le plafond [lə.pla.fɔ̃].


  • L’accord [la.kɔʁ].
  • Le nord [lə.nɔʁ].

-ourd : 

  • Lourd [luʁ].
  • Sourd [suʁ].

-oeud :

  • Le noeud [lə.nø].

The letter g

  • Long [lɔ̃].
  • Un étang [ɛ̃.ne.tɑ̃].

The letter M

At the end of a word, most of the time, the consonant M will give a nasal vowel:

  • Faim [fɛ̃].

The letter N

At the end of a word, generally, the consonant N will give a nasal vowel:

  • Fin [fɛ̃].
  • Un don [ɛ̃.dɔ̃].

The letter P

  • Trop [tʁo].
  • Un champ [ɛ̃.ʃɑ̃].

The letter S

  • Le repas [lə.rə.pa].
  • Jamais [ʒa.mɛ].

We find the silent S at the end of the plural and in conjugations:

  • Les études [le.ze.tyd].
  • Tu manges [ty.mɑ̃ʒ].
  • Nous chantons [nu.ʃɑ̃.tɔ̃].

The letter T

The consonant T is silent after a vowel:

  • La forêt [la.fo.ʁɛ].
  • Un achat [ɛ̃.na.ʃa].

After R

  • L’art [laʁ].
  • Le dessert [lə.de.sɛʁ].

After a mute C

  • Le respect [lə.ʁɛs.pɛ].
  • L’aspect [las.pɛ].

After a mute P

  • Prompt [pʁɔ̃].

The T is silent in conjugations:

  • Il finit [il.fi.ni].
  • Il chantait [il.ʃɑ̃.tɛ].

The letter X

  • Heureux [hø.ʁø].
  • Le choix [lə.ʃwa].

The letter Z

  • Le nez [lə.ne].
  • Assez [a.se].

For further

A letter can be silent at the end of a word but can be pronounced when making the liaison. You can learn everything about silent letters in French and test your understanding and pronunciation by joining the online course. The course breaks down the different categories of silent letters in French, like the silent ‘e’, silent ‘h’, and various silent consonants at the end of words. It provides explanations of the rules and exceptions, as well as ample opportunities to practice identifying words with silent letters through various exercises. Understanding which letters are typically not pronounced can greatly improve one’s French pronunciation and comprehension.

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