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For instance, “vous” has a silent “s”, unless it's something like “Je vous ai vu.” (I'm not sure that I constructed that properly, but you get the point — the s is pronounced in that case.)

But what if you have "Je voudrais acheter un billet."? Is it "voo-drez"?

Basically, I'm asking do you always pronounce it if the next word begins with a vowel, or only under certain circumstances?

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It seems that is is quite discretional. My french teacher even disadvised to make the "liason" and in fact here (in the south) seems that people use it, but not too much. – Paolo Jun 11 '12 at 9:38
up vote 9 down vote accepted

A general rule: use whatever is the easiest to pronounce.

In the case of “Je vous ai vu”, I hope you will find [ʒə.vu.z‿e.vy] easier than [ʒə.vu.e.vy], because you would hardly be understood if you omit the liasion.

In “Je voudrais acheter un billet” it doesn't matter much. Personally I use a very light liaison (something between a /z/ and an aspirated /h/).

You will find more information on the Liaison (French) articles on Wikipedia.

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By the way, why isn't it Je vous ai vus? Must not the past participle agree when a direct object proceeds it? – Aerovistae Apr 19 at 21:39
@Aerovista: Vous can also be singular ;-) – Stéphane Gimenez Apr 19 at 21:41
Oh, so it would be either, depending on context. Bien sûr. Merci. – Aerovistae Apr 19 at 21:44

I would say that usually when you have a s (or x) before a vowel, you can make the liaison. This is in order to avoid hiatuses. Usually, it's intended to be easier to pronounce. But if you don't pronounce it, you will be understood anyway, don't worry for that.

Full official rules from l'Académie française here. There are mandatory liaisons, forbidden ones, and optional cases (if you do the liaison then, it would be considered as “un parlé soutenu”, more or less the equivalent of the 'formal' register in English).

(Another link that may help, in French here, or this one in English.)

A quite common mistake on the liaison (confusion between a 't' and a 's' of sometimes a 'n' sound) is called “pataquès”.

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Is 'x' pronounced as a 'z'? I didn't know you could make liaisons with 'x'. – Aerovistae Jun 12 '12 at 5:41
« Je suis aux anges. » (idiom meaning "I'm euphoric") No liaison between suis aux but mandatory one between aux anges. French language is hard... – Romain VALERI Jun 12 '12 at 7:30
yes @Aerovista, as 'z' – cedbeu Jun 12 '12 at 11:44
@RomainVALERI I think the first one is optional here. In this case, not doing it maybe considered much more easy and euphonic indeed. – cedbeu Jun 12 '12 at 11:50

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