Should You Pronounce the Final Letter of French Words?

There is no way to know whether you should pronounce the final letter of a French word or not.

That’s at least what most French textbooks say.

Luckily, this isn’t entirely true. It turns out there is a formula that can help you know whether you should pronounce the last letter of a word or not.

And you want to know the best? It’s easy and works in the majority of cases. You didn’t expect a French rule to work all the time, did you? :).

Meet the CaReFuL rule

To know whether a final letter should be pronounced or not, think about the CaReFuL rule.

If a French word ends in C, R, F or L (the letters in CaReFuL), the final letter is pronounced.

If the word ends with another letter, the final letter is silent

This doesn’t work if the final letter is a “e”, “b”, “k” or “q” though. But since “b”, “k” and “q” are almost never used as final letters in French, the CaReFuL works in most cases.

Should you pronounce the end letter of these words?

Now that you know the theory, let’s see how it works in practice.

Le choc

The final letter is a „c“ so you pronounce it.

Le docteur

The final letter is a „r“ so you pronounce it.

Le ticket

The final letter is a „t“, so you don‘t pronounce it.

Paris

The final letter is a „s“ so you don‘t pronounce it.

Champs-Élysées

The final letter of „champs“ is „s“, so you don‘t pronounce it.
And the final letter of „Elysées“ is also a „s“, so it‘s silent.

You do need to link “champs” and “Elysées” together though. This is what we call liaisons.

I’m still not sure whether a final letter is silent or not

If you ever have a doubt, you can always:

  • Check a French dictionary and look at the pronunciation of the word.
  • See if the pronunciation of the word is available on Forvo.
  • Ask someone to pronounce the word for you on Rhinospike.
  • Pronounce the word and carefully look for any sign of surprise or confusion on the face of the person you’re talking to.

Over to you

Do you know people who would benefit from the CaReFuL rule? Share this post with them!

Got a question or would like to join the discussion? Comment below this article!

Benjamin Houy
Benjamin Houy

Benjamin Houy is a native French speaker and tea drinker with a BA degree in Applied Foreign Languages and a passion for languages. After teaching French and English in South Korea for 7 months as part of a French government program, he created French Together to help English speakers learn the 20% of French that truly matters. You will also find him giving blogging advice on Grow With Less.

17 thoughts on “Should You Pronounce the Final Letter of French Words?”

  1. I was taught the crfl rule in the nineties; I spent the intervening decades hearing no-one at all pronouncing them. A Google query I made, after I was fed up with the fact that no-one obeys the “rule,” is what led me to this article.
    So a profoundly relevant question remains: why do people continue to believe–and teach–this, when it is so blatantly, manifestly false?

    Reply
  2. Another group that does not pronounce a final R is the words ending in IER such as premier, papier, cerisier, sentier.

    Reply

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