i think languages logo

Understanding French Liaison: The Key to Fluent Speaking

french liason pronunciation

Do you want to sound like a native French speaker? Then you need to master the French art of liaison.

What is it? Simply put, it’s the way French words blend together. But, there’s more to it than meets the ear.

It’s the secret to sounding sophisticated and polished. Without it, you’ll be like a fish out of water.

Let’s dive into the world of French liaison.

What is la liaison?

Have you ever noticed that French sounds smooth and musical when spoken by native speakers?

One of the secrets to achieving this seamless flow in French pronunciation is through the use of “la liaison.”

La liaison is a pronunciation rule in French that involves linking the final consonant of one word to the beginning vowel of the next word, creating a smooth transition between them.

Think of la liaison as a bridge that connects two words together, allowing them to flow smoothly and naturally. Just like a bridge supports the weight of vehicles and pedestrians, la liaison supports the flow of spoken French.

But mastering French liaison can be tricky, especially for non-native speakers. It involves understanding the rules for linking consonants, dropping silent letters, and pronouncing words correctly in context.

Furthermore, la liaison is an important aspect of understanding spoken French, as it can change the meaning of a sentence or phrase.

For example, the phrase “un grand homme” (a great man) can sound like “un gran domme” without la liaison, which could change the meaning entirely.

Most French consonants retain their usual sound when used in a liaison, with the exception of:

  • S and X, which change to a Z sound, as in:

les enfants / le zɑ̃fɑ̃/ and deux heures /dø zœʁ/

children and two hours

  • D, which becomes a T sound, as in:

un grand ami / /œ̃ ɡʁɑ̃ tami/

a great friend

  •  nasal consonant “on” becomes an open O sound followed by an N

Pay attention that the word “bon” is pronounced similarly to the feminine form “bonne.”

un bon ami /œ̃ bɔn ami/

a good friend

In French there are 3 types of liaisons:

  • mandatory
  • forbidden
  • optional

Mandatory French liaison

So, when do you use mandatory liaison? Here are a few situations:

La liaison is a common phenomenon in spoken French, especially after determiners that end with consonants. In case you don’t remember, a determiner is a small word used before a noun, such as “the” in English, numbers, or possessives.

In French, determiners are some examples of determiners that end with consonants.

  • un” (a/one in the masculine),
  • des” (some)
  • les” (plural “the”)
  • ces” (these)
  • deux” (two)
  • trois” (three)

When a determiner is followed by a noun or an adjective that starts with a vowel, liaison is required. This means that you need to pronounce the final consonant of the determiner before the following vowel sound.

Here are some examples of the liaison after determiners:

“Un enfant”

a child

“Les arbres”

Les arbres” (the trees)

“Deux amis”

“Deux amis” (two friends)

“Ton excellent vin”

“Ton excellent vin” (your excellent wine)

“Ces autres voyages”

“Ces autres voyages” (these other travels)

Possessives like “mon” (my), “ton” (your), “son” (his/her in the singular), “mes” (my), “tes” (your), “ses” (his/her in the plural), “nos” (our), “vos” (plural “your”), and “leurs” (their in the plural) are also determiners.

This rule is quite straightforward and is mostly used with subject pronouns that end with a consonant, like (Nous, Vous, Ils, Elles, On).

Here are some examples followed by the IPA transcription in French.

On est là! /On ɛ t là!/

We’re over here!

Elles ont faim! /Elles ɔ̃t fɛ̃ !/

They’re hungry!

“Vous êtes sûrs?” /Vu zɛt syʁ ?/

Are you sure?

In addition, a pronoun before a verb that ends with a consonant such as “nous” (us), “vous” (you), and “les” (them) requires la liaison.

Here are some examples:

Tu nous entends./ty nu zɑ̃tɑ̃/

“You can hear us.”

Je les adore. /ʒə lez‿a.dɔʁ/

“I love them.”

Liaison appears also between an adjective and a noun regardless of whether the noun is singular or plural.


J’ai de petites oreilles. /ʒe de pətit zɔʁɛj/

I have small ears.

Michel est un grand ami. /miʃɛl ɛt‿œ̃ gʁɑ̃t ami/

Michel is a great friend. (“d” sounds like “t” due to liaison)

Je regarde la télé sur un petit écran. /ʒə ʁəɡaʁd la tele syʁ œ̃ pəti ekʁɑ̃/

I’m watching TV on a small screen.

C’est un ancien élève. /sɛt‿œ̃n‿ɑ̃sjɛn elɛv/

He’s a former student.

  • After short prepositions, and “très

In French, mandatory liaisons also occur after short, one-syllable prepositions.

These prepositions include:

  • Dans /dɑ̃/ = In
  • En /ɑ̃/ = In
  • Sans /sɑ̃/ = Without
  • Chez /ʃe/ = At (the “z” sounds like “z” due to liaison)
  • Sous /su/ = Under

In addition, the adverb Très /tʁɛ/ (meaning “very”) also requires a liaison in certain situations.

C’est très amusant ! /sɛ tʁɛ.z‿a.my.zɑ̃/

It’s very amusing!

Je vis en Amérique. /ʒə vis ɑ̃n‿ame.ʁik/

I live in America.

Ils sont chez eux. /il sɔ̃ ʃe.zø/

They’re at home. or literally, “They’re at their own place.”

J’arrive dans une minute. /ʒa.ʁiv dɑ̃z‿yn my.nyt/

I’m arriving in a minute.

  • When there’s a singular noun followed by an adjective that begins with a vowel or silent “h

“un grand homme”/un gran tom/

a great man

  • When the pronoun “tout” means “all”

“tous les élèves” /tous les zélèves/

all the students

  • After certain verbs, including “ont” and “sont”

ils ont aimé”  /ils zont aimé/

they liked

Forbidden liaisons

It’s important to be aware of specific situations where liaisons are not allowed.

We’ll explore a couple of common situations where liaison is forbidden.

  • before a verb, when it’s not a pronoun

For instance, in the sentence “Les trains arrivent” (IPA: /le tʁɛ̃ za.ʁiv/), there is no liaison between “trains” and “arrivent”.

“Les trains arrivent” /le tʁɛ̃ za.ʁiv/

“The trains are arriving.”

  • after a verb in the singular

In the sentence “Tu vois un problème?” (IPA: /ty vwa œ̃ pʁɔ.blɛm/), there is no liaison between “vois” and “un”.

Tu vois un problème?  /ty vwa œ̃ pʁɔ.blɛm/

Do you see a problem?

  • with first names

There is no liaison between “chez” and “Arthur” in the following sentence.

On va chez Arthur.  /ɔ̃ va ʃe aʁtyʁ/

We’re going to Arthur’s place.

  • after conjonction “et”

For example, in the phrase “un chat et un chien” (IPA: /œ̃ ʃa e œ̃ ʃjɛ̃/), there is no liaison between “chat” and “et” because “chat” is a singular noun, and there is no liaison after “et”.

un chat et un chien”  /œ̃ ʃa e œ̃ ʃjɛ̃/)

a cat and a dog

un homme et une femme /œ̃ ɔm e yn fam/

a man and a woman

Optional liaisons

(after a plural verb, and more)

Let’s talk about the optional liaisons (= les liaisons facultatives).

In these cases, French people usually don’t make the liaison, but you can pronounce it to sound more formal.

  • After short adverbs and conjunctions

For instance:

  • Trop = too much
  • Plus = more / not anymore
  • Mais = But

Il est trop étrange, mais il est là. /il‿ɛ tʁop etʁɑ̃ʒ mɛ il‿ɛ la/

He’s too elegant, but he’s here.

Pronouncing both liaisons sounds very sophisticated.

  • After the verbs “Être” and “Avoir”

The liaison is a bit more common after the conjugated verbs “être” and “avoir” (even in the singular conjugations), especially with a past participle. But it’s still a bit formal.

Nous avons fini le travail. /nu.z‿a.vɔ̃ fi.ni lə tʁa.vaj/

We finished the work.

Elle est une grande actrice.  /ɛl ɛt yn ɡʁɑ̃d‿aktʁis/

She is a great actress.

Ils ont aimé ce film. /il.z‿ɔ̃ t‿ɛ.me sə film/

They saw an interesting movie.

→ Optional liaison between “nous” and “avons,” between “est” and “une” and between “ils” and “ont.”

Enchaînement vs Liaisons

In French phonetics, enchaînement and liaison are two distinct phenomena related to the pronunciation of words in connected speech. Enchaînement, which means “chaining” in English, refers to the smooth transition of sound from the final consonant of one word to the following vowel of the next word, without a pause in between.

This occurs when a word ending in a consonant is followed by a word beginning with a vowel.

In contrast, liaison, which means “link” in English, is the connection between two words where a normally silent consonant at the end of one word is pronounced to link it to the following word that begins with a vowel or silent h.

While both enchaînement and liaison serve to maintain the flow and clarity of spoken French, they operate in different contexts and have distinct phonetic features.

Examples of enchaînement and liaison:


Les amis de Sophie habitent à Paris. /le.z‿a.mi də sɔ.fi.a.bi.tɑ̃.ta.pa.ʁi/

The friends of Sophie live in Paris.

Elle est une grande artiste. /ɛl‿ɛt‿yn.grɑ̃d‿aʁ.tist/

She is a great artist.


Les enfants ont vu un chat. /le.z‿ɑ̃.fɑ̃.t‿ɔ̃.vy œ̃.ʃa/

The children saw a cat.

Nous avons acheté des pommes. /nu.z‿a.võ.na.ʃe.de.pɔm/

We bought some apples.

Tips for Improving French Liaison Pronunciation

So why is mastering French liaison important for achieving fluent French pronunciation?

For one, it helps to avoid the choppy, stilted speech that can be a dead giveaway for a non-native speaker. To improve your French liaison pronunciation, grasp the melody of the French language.

Even though it all sounds like one long, long, long sentence in French, it’s made of many little words. Start with mandatory liaison and build your way to forbidden and then optional French liaison.

With practice, you’ll be able to use la liaison to connect words smoothly and naturally and achieve a more fluent and natural sound in spoken French.

Want to keep improving your spoken French? Learn more about French Pronunciation.

Related Posts

French: How to teach on Italki

Why a guide to teaching languages online I’m ready to reveal my small secrets as I transition from providing online instruction to managing my website.

German: Babbel vs Duolingo: differences

Numerous individuals use software and apps to learn new languages. These days, two well-known online resources for language learning include Babbel and Duolingo. They both

Languages: Babbel vs Duolingo: differences

In today’s post, we’ll talk about the differences between Babbel and Duolingo. These are unquestionably the two most well-known language learning programs out there. Let’s

Top 20 Spanish words used in sports

Discover the top 20 Spanish words commonly used in the world of sports. Enhance your sports vocabulary and understanding with our informative blog. Introduction The

French Phrases You Need in Workplace

Mastering French phrases in the workplace is essential for effective communication. This blog explores key phrases to navigate the professional world en français. I. Introduction

Sea in French: How to say Sea in Italian

Discover the Italian translation for “sea” with our guide. Learn how to pronounce and use this common word in the beautiful Italian language. The sea

Spanish adverbials: Mientras…

The word Mientras can be an adverb or conjunction depending on the sentence and its structure. You can use mientras to connect two actions in

Spanish imperative negative + pronouns

The Spanish structure imperativo negativo + pronombres enclíticos is a bit controversial topic since many Spanish students get confused when using it. Los pronombres enclíticos

7 Myths About Learning Spanish

Unveiling the truth behind learning Spanish! Discover and debunk the 7 common myths that may be holding you back from mastering this vibrant language. Are

Famous French Food You Must Try

Indulge in the flavors of France with our guide to famous French food. Discover must-try dishes like escargots, coq au vin, and crème brûlée. Bon

Famous French Singers You Must Know

Discover the iconic voices that have made French music famous worldwide. Our list of famous French singers features timeless classics and modern hits. French singers

Famous Spanish Food You Must Try

Embark on a delectable journey through Spain’s culinary wonders! Discover the must-try famous Spanish dishes that will tantalize your taste buds. Spanish Food Spain is

Famous German Singers You Must Know

Get ready to immerse yourself in the enchanting world of German music as we showcase the extraordinary talents of renowned singers from Germany. From timeless

Famous Spanish Singers You Must Know

Let the music captivate your senses and ignite your passion for Spanish culture by knowing the famous Spanish singers that ever existed. Importance of Spanish

German Phrases You Need in the Workplace

Discover essential German phrases for the workplace. From greetings to professional conversations, equip yourself with the necessary language skills. German Phrases in the Workplace Learning

Spanish Phrases You Need in Workplace

Master the essential Spanish phrases for the workplace and enhance your communication skills. From greetings to professional requests, we’ve got you covered! Spanish Words in

Top Spanish Speaking Countries

Explore the vibrant cultures and diverse landscapes of the top Spanish-speaking countries in this blog. Discover their history, traditions, and more! Explanation of the importance

Top 20 German Words Used in Sports

Discover the top 20 German words commonly used in sports, from ‘Tor’ to ‘Abseits’. Enhance your sports vocabulary and impress your German-speaking friends! Introduction Explanation

Top 20 French Words Used in Sports

Discover the Top 20 French words used in sports! From “but” to “arbitre,” learn essential vocab to help you better understand the sports world in

How to Say “Food” in Spanish

“Learn the different ways to say ‘food’ in Spanish and expand your vocabulary with our comprehensive guide. Enhance your language skills today!” One of the

How to Say “Food” in French

Learn the various ways to say “food” in French with this comprehensive guide. Expand your vocabulary and impress your francophone friends! “Food” in French: La

How to Say “Food” in German

Learn how to say ‘food’ in German and impress your friends with your language skills! Check out our easy guide and enhance your vocabulary today.

Top 7 Reasons for learning French

Parlez-vous Français? Explore the top 7 reasons for learning French and unlock a world of opportunities. Start your language journey with confidence today! 7 reasons

Top 7 Reasons for Learning German

Discover the power of learning German! Unlock opportunities and expand your horizons with compelling reasons to study German. Start your linguistic journey today! Reasons for

Top 9 Reasons for learning Spanish

Is learning Spanish worth it? What are the top reasons for learning the Spanish language? Start your Spanish journey now! Reasons why learning Spanish is worth

How to learn Spanish through Podcasts

Do you want to learn Spanish through podcasts? Immerse yourself in the richness of the Spanish language with our podcast-based learning guide. Learn Spanish through

How to learn Languages through Podcasts

Unlock the power of language learning with podcasts! Explore the ultimate guide to mastering a new language through engaging podcasts. Start your linguistic journey now!

How to Maximize Your Time in Learning German

Learn German efficiently with expert tips! Discover effective techniques on how to maximize your time in learning German. Tips and strategies for efficiently learning German

How to learn French through Podcasts

Unlock the beauty of the French language with our podcast-based learning approach. Master French effortlessly with engaging lessons and practical tips! The Power of Podcasts

How to Learn German through Podcasts

Master German with ease! Explore the ultimate guide to learning German through podcasts. Gain language skills, cultural insights, and fluency. Start your German journey now!

How hard is it to learn German?

How hard is it to learn German?  Our comprehensive guide provides insights into the challenges and strategies to master the language. How hard is it

How hard is it to learn French?

Discover how difficult it is to learn French in our latest blog post, “Parlez-Vous Français?”. Gain insights and tips to improve your French skills. Parlez-vous

How to say in German

Looking to learn how to say common phrases in German? Check out this blog for tips and tricks on how to speak the language like

How to Pronounce Luxury Brands in French?

Are you a fashion enthusiast struggling to correctly pronounce luxury brand names in French? Look no further! In this French pronunciation guide for luxury brands,

Silent French H: Mute and Aspirated

The silent letter h is often causing trouble to French learners. In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at the “h” mute and

Faire la Bise: All about French Kiss

If you’re wondering how to greet in French, either through handshakes or kisses, you are at the right place. Today, you’ll learn how to navigate

Speaking practice: talk to yourself

Improve your speaking skills with these simple tips on how to practice speaking by talking to yourself. Start speaking confidently today! Read more here. Speaking

Spaced repetition for the German language

Master German faster with spaced repetition! Our blog explains how this powerful technique works and offers tips to incorporate it into your learning routine. What

What does TE AMO mean in Spanish?

Discover the romantic meaning behind Te Amo, the Spanish phrase for ‘I love you’. Explore its cultural significance and usage in everyday life. Te Amo

What does JE T’AIME mean in French?

Discover the meaning and cultural significance of “Je t’aime,” the famous French expression for “I love you.” Explore its nuances and usage in this blog.