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Silent Letters in French - Lettres muettes

One of the difficulties with French pronunciation is that it is not a phonetic language. A phonetic language (e.g., Spanish, Arabic) is one in which each letter has a single corresponding sound; in other words, spelling matches pronunciation. Other languages, like French and English, are not phonetic: they have letters that can be pronounced in different ways or sometimes not at all. 

There are three categories of silent letters in French.
  • E muet / Elision
  • H muet and aspiré
  • Final consonants

Related Lessons
Silent letters

E muet (elision)
H (muet + aspiré)

This lesson will focus on final consonants; follow the links to the right for detailed explanations of the silent letters E and H. 

The basic rule of French pronunciation is that the final consonant is not pronounced, but there are many exceptions, which are what this lesson is about.*

The letters B, C, F, K, L, Q, and R are usually pronounced at the end of a word. Tip: Since B, K, and Q are rare as final consonants, some people find it helpful to use the word CaReFuL to remember the most common of the usually pronounced final consonants.
* This lesson is just a guideline - I can't possibly discuss every exception to these rules.

Note: silent final consonants may be subject to liaison when followed by a vowel. 

Usually pronounced Some exceptions*
B le Maghreb
un snob
un club
le plomb
C un truc
un flic
un estomac, un tabac, le porc
nasal vowel + c: un banc, blanc
F actif
un chef
un oeuf
un nerf, une clef, oeufs
K un anorak
un look
le bifteck
L il
un hôtel
un bol
gentil, outil  
vowel + -il: à l'appareil, un oeil  
Q le coq

Related Lessons

Nasal vowels

R un four
{ boulanger, boucher


-er infinitives: abonnercauser
  -ier suffix: premier, cahier
The other French consonants are usually silent at the end of a word, with some exceptions. Tip: many exceptions are proper names or words borrowed from other languages.
Usually silent Some exceptions*
D froid
Proper names: David, Alfred
G le sang
le grog
M The letters M and N are usually silent, but remember that they cause the vowel preceding them to be nasal.
Latin words: amen, forum
P un drap
un champ
un slip, un cap


The words plus and tout have their own pronunciation rules.

Tout / Tous

S exprès
un fils, un autobus, le tennis
T et
brut, ouest, huit
-ct ending: direct, strict
-pt ending: concept, sept
X deux
un prix
un époux
six, index, Aix  
Z chez
le riz
le gaz  


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