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Nous courons vs nous courrons? Nous courions vs nous courrions? Same with mourir, secourir, accourir, etc.. Same with conjugations for vous.

How do you differentiate between them?

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up vote 8 down vote accepted

The difference can be heard when you make a break between the syllables:

  • "Nous courons" is pronounced: Nous cou-rons
  • "Nous courrons" is pronounced: Nous cour-rons - In this case the 'r' is emphasized because you pronounce it twice.
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1  
I understand the concept but am having a lot of trouble executing it here in my living room. I'll have to hear someone say it. Hopefully it's easier than it sounds. – Aerovistae May 30 '12 at 16:15
    
It's true that saying we pronounce two "r"s is theorical, because in the reality it's impossible. Yet, the fact is that, to mark the double "r", we pronounce it a bit longer that the simple "r": It's that extended length that makes the auditor understand there are two "r"s, The same goes in some words for "ll", bu not for the other consonants ("cc","dd","mm", "nn" etc...) for which we make no distinction. – BBBreiz Apr 20 at 14:50

For all these cases, I tend to insist just a bit more on the R when it's doubled. This may vary between regionalisms however.

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1  
And I wonder if the spelling doesn't drive the pronunciation. – Un francophone May 30 '12 at 11:25
5  
It surely does, but only to disambiguate. For example, I would never pronounce the RR in "carré" the same way as in "mourrons", basically because there is no "caré" to disambiguate from. – Alexis Pigeon May 30 '12 at 11:34
    
Seconding what @AlexisPigeon said. Normally there is no difference between simple and double consonants in French, except in this particular case, to disambiguate between different forms of the same verb. In the same way, you can insist on the i sound when a double i occurs (from the verb rire : "nous rions" in the present, "nous riions" in the imparfait - in this case you'd say "nous ri-ions"). – Pwassonne Apr 23 at 20:44

Definitely a nice question. Actually this distinction is only important with 3 verb roots in French (courir, mourir, quérir), in all other cases, one or two R don't make a difference. But with courir, for example, there is a strict contrast between [ku.re] (PRS.2PL) and [kur.re] (FUT.2PL). This distinction even though appearing in very few contexts is contrastive for most native speakers.

Moreover, in the conditional present, arise two difficult configurations in the 1PL and 2PL whereby the two R are followed by a yod: courrions, courriez. These are the only words in French presenting such a sequence of phonemes /VrrjV/ where the two R have distinctive power. The form courrions cannot be pronounced [kurjõ], this is only appropriate for courions.

So speakers end up using a different structure avoiding these particular forms or treading uncharted territory and using one of the possible strategies: [kurərjõ], [kurirjõ] or making a special articulatory effort and producing [kurrjõ]. In all cases, feeling an certain amount of insecurity and self-conciousness about it.

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