5 Pronunciation: the letter ‘h’
You will now look more closely at the letter ‘h’ in spelling and sound.
Listen to the audio below and identify the letter in the following words that is not sounded, other than the letter e.
l’hôtel de ville
1 le théâtre; 2 l’hôtel de ville; 3 la cathédrale; 4 la bibliothèque; 5 l’hôpital
Listen to the audio again and repeat each word.
Listen to the recording to check your pronunciation. Note that the letter ‘h’ is not normally pronounced when it is the first letter of the word. Note also that ‘th’ anywhere within a word is pronounced as ‘t’ (i.e. the ‘h’ is silent).
The letter ‘h’ does not correspond to a sound in French. Words that are spelt with the initial letter ‘h’ are pronounced as if they begin with the vowel that follows it. Definite articles preceding these words are usually reduced from le and la to l’.
l’hôtel (m.) hotel
l’herbe (f.) grass
Words spelt with ‘th’– in whatever position – are also pronounced as if the ‘t’ were the only letter present.
le thé tea
la bibliothèque library
When words beginning with the letter ‘h’ are preceded by the indefinite article, un or une, the two words run together and it sounds like the second word starts with ‘n’. Here are some examples:
un␣ hôtel hotel (Sounds like ‘un_nôtel’)
une␣habitation residence (Sounds like ‘une_nabitation’)
un␣hôpital hospital (Sounds like ‘un_nôpital’)