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Elision in French

Camille Chevalier-Karfis By Camille Chevalier-Karfis - updated on Jun 17, 2020

J’aime le rire d’Olivier. Je l’aime. What are this apostrophes for? They follow a French grammatical rule called “elision” which I will explain here.

So let’s take a closer look at what elision in French, how we use elision and how you should pronounce words in an elision.

1 – What Does Elision Mean in French?

Elision is a French grammatical term to describe a very common French grammatical concept – actually, the concept of Elision exists also in English.

Fish n’ chips, I can’t, I’m, Shouldn’t… All these are examples of elision in English.

2 – What Does Elision Do in French?

An elison occurs when a French word drops its vowel in writing.

The dropped vowel is replaced in writing by an apostrophe.

3 – What Words Take Elision in French?

Je, le, de, ne, que, se, ce, me, te and la and a few other words (aujourd’hui) take elision.

Elision is explained in depth with audio and then illustrated within the story part of my beginner French learning method.

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4 – Why Does Elision Exist ?

Elision exists to avoid a clash of vowels (which is hard on the jaws).

Try saying out loud “je te aime”… Well it’s easier (at least on a French jaw) to say “je t’aime”… Hence the “te” becomes “t'” in elision.

5 – How Do You Pronounce Elision in French?

Elision in French is not pronounced per se. The apostrophe is absolutely silent: it’s not pronounced whatsoever, no hhhh sound or anything. It’s only here in writing to show the missing vowel.

However, the consonant before the apostrophe is pronounced just like if it were attached to the following word.

No pause, no hhhh… just like one word.

So, for example, “je t’aime” is pronounced like if it was written “je taime” [je tèm].

Elision is very common in French, and it’s very important you master elision and its correct pronunciation to sound French.

Now I will give you examples from my beginner French learning method L1, chapter 7.

  1. De Anne > d’Anne Of, from, about Anne
  2. Je habite > j’habite I live, I am living
  3. Que il > qu’il That he/it
  4. La école > l’école The school
  5. Ce est > c’est It is, she is, he is
  6. Ne êtes > n’êtes Are not
  7. Le hôtel > l’hôtel The hotel
  8. Se appelle > s’appelle (He/she) is named
  9. Me appelle > m’appelle (I) am named, my name is
  10. Te aime > t’aime (watch out, this happens to « te » not « tu » in formal French writing) Love(s) you
  11. Je étudie > j’étudie I study, I am studying
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