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.


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


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 in a French audio dictionary.
  • 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 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.

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

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  1. The letter “c” at the end of a word is SILENT. Examples: “blanc”, “franc.” However, for example, the name “Marc” – the c is pronounced.

    • Hi Fred, that applies after a digraph or trigraph – multiple letters working together to make the same sound. C is pronounced after ‘an’ ‘ou’, etc, but silent after individual letters. 🙂

  2. 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?

    • But the examples of the CaReFuL rule applying are true: you DO pronounce the c at the end of choc; you do pronounce the r at the end of air; you do pronounce the f at the end of pouf; you do pronounce the l at the end of fil. If you leave those letters silent, the word has no meaning or a different meaning.

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

  4. Coucou Benjamin.

    Je vous remercie. Ce sera utile. Je comprends que ce n’est pas une règle absolue, mais je pense que cela facilitera mon étude du français.


    Monsieur Bon Chat

  5. You’re mixing up LETTERS with CONSONANTS. Not all letters are consonants! To say that one should only pronounce the terminal letters if they’re C R F or L, is to ignore all the words that end in vowels! Il y a une difference entre les consonnes et les voyelles!

    And how can you claim that the terminal ‘r’ is always pronounced? The terminal ‘r’ is almost NEVER pronounced, because the most common vowel before the ‘r’ is the ‘e’ — as is the case in, for instance, all group-1 infinitives, or any ‘er’-terminating occupation (boulanger, berger, fermier, boucher, menuisier, etc).

    exceptions – ‘fer’, ‘hiver’, ‘hier’, ‘mer’.

    • Exactly what I was about to write! Many verbs end in ‘er’ ‘ir’ and the ‘r’ isn’t usually pronounced!

      • Verbs ending in ‘ir’ actually do have the r pronounced (e.g., finir, devenir, etc…). You are correct with ‘er’ though, the r modifies the sound of the e and is not pronounced as an r.

  6. The “b” “k” “q”could be squeezed in to the rule of you made it the “be careful of q” rule.

    Since k & q are the same sound, just add in those 2 words and it suddenly works (just add a note that family names get strange)

  7. The consonant R at the end of a word is not always pronounced. R after E is silent:
    Example: marcher, filmer, entrer etc

  8. There are some holes in that rule. Many words end in c but it are silent (blanc, banc, estomac, franc, tabac) and x is often not pronounced (aux, deux, six, prix)


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