“Il y a” is probably the common French expression where the modern French pronunciation is the most blatant. And this often comes to a shock to poor students of French who were never prepared for that!
First of all, “il y a” (meaning there is, there are, or ago) naturally glides.
In other words, no French native would ever pronounce “il y a ” “eel-ee-a”.
“Il y a” Very Enunciated French Pronunciation
There is a natural consonant gliding between the “il” and the “y”, making it sound like “eelee”.
And then a vowel gliding between the “y” and the “a”, making it sound like “ya”.
So if someone enunciated a lot, like maybe someone reciting French poetry, “il y a” would be pronounced “eeleeya”. All in one breath, you cannot breathe in the middle.
“Il y a” Everyday Spoken French Pronunciation
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In everyday use, the double “i” sound of the Y would be dropped, and we’d pronounce “il y a” “eelya”.
“Il y a” in Glided Spoken French Pronunciation
When French natives speak fast and in a relaxed environment (what I call “street French”), “il y a” would glide even more!
- “il y a” would become “ee ya”, dropping the L sound.
- or even more common, the whole “il y a” would just become “ya”.
Now it’s important you understand everybody speaks like that in a relaxed setting: politicians would speak like that at home, my 70 years young mother would say “ya” as well, so would I or my daughter…
This is a very, very common French gliding.
And of course, it affects all the variations / conjugations of “il y a”:
- Il y a = ya
- Il n’y a pas = yapa
- Il y en a = yan na
- Il n’y en a pas = yan napa
- Il y aura = yora
- Il y a eu = ya u
Spoken Modern French Versus Textbook French
This is usually all a big shock to students of French who never heard of this spoken modern French pronunciation. I elaborate on this subject in this video:
If you’d like to learn more about this subject, follow the link to my article where I talk about spoken French pronunciation in depth.
Today’s spoken French is also explained – with audio recordings – along with traditional French pronunciation in French Today’s audiobook Secrets of French Pronunciation.
Then, once you understand the rules of French pronunciation, you’ll be ready to train with French Today’s downloadable French audiobooks: French Today’s bilingual novels are recorded at different speeds and enunciation, to help you master both traditional and modern glided pronunciation.