In the third person plural forms of the verbs "Tenir", "Prendre" and "Venir" we can observe that the consonant N is doubled, while in the other forms of the verb this doesn't happen.

Il tieNt - Ils tieNNent

Il vieNt - lls vieNNent

Il preNd - Ils preNNent

I would like to know why this happens, I can't seem to find an explanation to this anywhere. Does this phenomena happen in other verbs too, or with other consonants?

2 Answers 2


Most doubled nasal consonants in French either follow the orthography of their Latin ancestor (e.g. somme, from summum) or marked a nasal vowel followed by a nasal consonant, as in the modern word ennui.

Almost all of those nasal vowels have lost their nasality since the orthography was standardised but it was never adapted to reflect their changed pronunciation.

Old French vient /vɪ̪ent/ [vɪ̪̃ẽnt] vs viènent /'vɪ̪e.nənt/ ['vɪ̪ẽ.nənt] (/e/ is nasalised before a nasal consonant, but this is unconscious and not salient for native speakers, since nasal vowels only appear before nasal consonants as in modern English)

Middle French vient /vɪ̪ẽ(t)/ vs viennent /vɪ̪ẽ.nə(t)/ Nasal consonant are lost at the end of a syllable after vowels (as in vient) but not at the beginning of syllables (as in viennent). This makes the nasality of the vowel audible to native speakers, who modify the orthography of viènent to viennent to reflect the sequence of the nasal diphthong ⟨ien⟩ and the nasal stop ⟨n⟩

Classical French vient /vjɛ̃(t)/ vs viennent /vjɛ.nə(t)/. Nasal vowels lose their nasality before nasal stops, leading to the modern pronunciation and spelling discrepancy.


Mostly an educated guess

In Il tient, the root is tie

if you keep the root and add nent you get tienent with a [ø] sound

To get the [e] sound (oral form usually predate the writing form) you have to write either tiènent or tiennent

Either you modify the root, or you end with nnent

  • 4
    Would be a grave accent: ils tiènent, like ils amènent. Same inconsistency with vous appelez, ils appellent vs vous pelez, ils pèlent, vous achetez, ils achètent vs vous jetez, ils jettent.
    – jlliagre
    Commented Jul 2, 2019 at 16:38
  • @jiliagre C'est corrigé
    – Madlozoz
    Commented Jul 3, 2019 at 11:20
  • But it does not explain why we want it to be pronounced tiènent, that would be a great addition to this explanation.
    – user20904
    Commented Jul 3, 2019 at 13:38

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