In the word "les", although the final "s" is not sounded when followed by a consonant, is it still shaped in the mouth? I am wondering why the letter becomes audible before a vowel.

les livres /le livr/

les livres ("s" in "les" is silent)

les autres /le zotr/

lesz-autres ("s" in "les" is pronounced as "z")

I understand how to apply the rule for liaison but I was wondering if there is a phonological explanation for it. I want to know the same thing for all letters that are usually not sounded except when the next word starts with a vowel. I have a text book which states that liaison also occurs after numbers:

cinq livres /sõ livr/

cinq livres ("q" in "cinq" is silent)

cinq autres /sõ kotr/

cinqk-autres ("q" in "cinq" is pronounced as "k")

So again, in this example, is the "k" shaped by the mouth but not sounded when followed by a consonant?

Apologies for any spelling or pronunciation mistakes.


There seems to be too much focus on the word cinq. I was just looking for an example that ended in a letter other than s. I want to know about the phenomenon as a whole, not focus on specific examples, whether they are right or wrong. Also, I can only understand French if it is very, very simple. Respondez en anglais, s'il vous plait! Respond in English please!

  • 2
    Le q de cinq se prononce dans cinq livres
    – Personne
    Jan 9, 2015 at 8:22
  • 3
    ou pas, les deux s'entendent.
    – jlliagre
    Jan 9, 2015 at 8:36
  • Maybe it's because I'm used to it but I actually find it more difficult to pronounce it without the liaison than with it... maybe that's why ?
    – Laurent S.
    Jan 9, 2015 at 9:14
  • There is more at play than the rule about liaison, and using that rule as an angle for a number shadows other rules/exceptions about the déterminant numéral i.e. Grevisse (591, c-). Trésor has insightful material; see also this. It is not easy to present this clearly and concisely; maybe someone knows how.
    – user3177
    Jan 9, 2015 at 11:39
  • How I wish I could understand the French comments.
    – CJ Dennis
    Jan 10, 2015 at 11:05

4 Answers 4


As you wrote later in your question, the cinq example is indeed a poor choice.

The reason is it is not pertaining to the list of words subject to liaison. A liaison happen when a word has an ending consonant only pronounced when the word is followed by a vowel or a mute h but not in other cases, like for example when the word is alone or the last one of a sentence.

On the opposite, cinq has its last consonant pronounced in that latter case and can actually always be pronounced. Sometimes, its last [k] is not pronounced when the following word starts with a consonant. This is an elision case, not a liaison one.

Back to your title question, no, words that are subject to liaison never have their last consonant causing an audible effect before a word starting with another consonant. These words are always pronounced just like if this letter does not exist at all. Doing otherwise it is a typical non native speaker mistake, like "Un petit garçon" pronounced like "Un petite garçon".


If you don't include the letter 'q' when your are pronouncing cinq livres, French people can hear saint, like holy book.

When livre = book, the usual pronunciation always includes a brief 'q' even in front of a consonant to discriminate signification.

  • Et puis entre « les cinq libérés », « les seins libérés » et « les saints libérés », est-ce qu’il y a moyen/besoin de faire une distinction phonétique ?
    – Papa Poule
    Jan 10, 2015 at 18:33
  • @PapaPoule Pour cinq il n'y a pas de problème puisqu'il a un q audible, mais l'homophonie sein/saint est la source de moult autres jeux de mots.
    – Personne
    Jan 10, 2015 at 18:45
  • @cl-r, you seem to be a native French speaker and I appreciate your attention to my question! Let's focus on les, though. If I pronounce les autres as two separate words, my tongue touches the roof of my mouth for the l, then leaves it for the e(s). If I use liaison my tongue touches the roof of my mouth again in a slightly different way before I start saying autres. In les livres for modern French speakers does the tongue touch the roof of the mouth for the s in les without being sounded? Maybe another word would be better as the l in livre could complicate things.
    – CJ Dennis
    Jan 11, 2015 at 3:17
  • @CJDennis l need the end of the tongue to be like vertical, for liaison pronounced z les [z]autres, tongue is near the teeth because the written s ofe les is sounded z. In les livres You have two l, and the s is muted -- As you have unsderstood reading my responses, I'm a pure francophone figthing with english :)
    – Personne
    Jan 11, 2015 at 21:02
  • 1
    For future readers: What @CJDennis is referring to is called an "unreleased consonant", and it simply a feature of English. Compare: "great beard" / "grey beard". They are distinguished by a faint, unreleased 't'. French does not have this phenomenon. The 's' in 'les' is truly silent in his example of 'les livres'. "How about in les poissons?" -> Nope, the 's' is totally and completely unarticulated in any way shape or form. It's a silent letter in the usual sense of the word. English examples: 'gh' in 'eight', 'h' in 'hour', 'k' in 'knife', etc.
    – PatrickB
    Dec 18, 2020 at 19:58

Ok. If I understand well, you want to know which silent letters do which sound. Let me first first recall you that there is three types of "liaisons" in french: the necessary ones, the optional ones and the forbidden ones. I'm saying that, because the liaisons that I'm presenting are sometimes optional. There is in french 6 liaisons' sounds.

  • /z/, which is done with a final "s", "z" or "x".
  • /t/, which is done with a final "t" or "d"
  • /n/, which is done with a final "n"
  • /p/ (always optional) which is done with a final "p"
  • /r/ ( always optional) which is done with a final "r"
  • /k/ (always optional) which is done with a final "c" or "g"

Several remarks:

  • the three last liaisons are really rare.
  • the "r"-liaisons is said to be necessary with the adjectives "premier" and "dernier" by the Académie français. I'm not here to say what I think about the Académie française, but you have to know that what they say is always interessing, but often not representative to what the french speakers say and write.
  • For the number between 1 and 10, it's really some crap. Here is the list explaining for each of them:
  • un (liaison in /n/)
  • deux (liaison in /z/)
  • trois (liaison in /z/)
  • quatre (nothing)
  • cinq (crap! It depends on regions. In some regions, the "q" is always pronounced. In the other, like mine, it is only pronouced if the next word begins with a vowel (like a liaison) but also if it is followed by a break (point or comma).
  • six (crap! Almost like cinq. It is pronouced /z/ before a vowel-begining word and !!! /s/ before a break. )
  • sept (the "t" is always pronounced)
  • huit (crap! exactly like cinq, but with the sound /t/ instead of /k/)
  • neuf (crap! Almost like six. It is pronouced /v/ before a vowel-begining word and !!! /f/ before a break. )
  • dix (crap! Exactly like six)

I hope I have answered your question. There is still a lot of things to say about the liaisons. So feel free to ask if you have other questions :)

By the way if there is an answer satisfying you, please mark it in order to show that the topic was ... answered!

  • My question is about a particular phenomenon found in some languages like Vietnamese. For example, "cat" would be pronounced "ka(t)", not "ka". You can't hear the "t", but you can hear they were just about to say it, then stopped.
    – CJ Dennis
    Aug 26, 2020 at 23:47

Ok, Let's not focus on this "cinq". What you are talking about is liaison

If I'm not mistaken, the "liaison" only occurs with plural. les enfants, les avions... The following word begins with a voyel.

There is no liaison with proper nouns Paris a de grandes rues (don't pronounce the 's')

There are some exceptions.

Les haricots (beans). As "haricots" begins with a consonant, there is no liaison. Same for "handicapés".

But, I have always heard les hopitaux with the liaison.

Also, to complete the answer, Jilliagre is right, there is no "liaison" with words ending by a consonant.

  • Liaisons have nothing to do with being plural: un-n-enfant, des-z-enfants. There can be liaisons with proper nouns, the absence of a liaison in “Paris a de grandes rues” is due to there being no liaison between the subject and the verb. See Wikipedia for more details. With haricots, hôpitaux, etc. the issue is whether the H is “muet” (doesn't count) or “aspiré” (counts as a consonant which isn't sounded but prevents a liaison). Again, see Wikipedia. Jan 19, 2015 at 14:14
  • Yes, thinking of it Paris et son-n-environnement. "Son" isn't plural. What is the rule for "Paris" ? You say Les bons-z-et les méchants but not Paris-z-et ... Nothing to do with the fact that it's a proper noun ?
    – TCHdvlp
    Jan 19, 2015 at 14:38

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