Have you ever heard of “H aspiré” and “H muet”?
Today, I'm going to explain to you what H muet and H aspiré in French are.
If you are already familiar with these two terms, you know that they can sometimes cause headaches when it comes to using them correctly.
So, let's see what H muet and H aspiré are, how to differentiate them, how to use them correctly, and we will end with a list of the most common words with an H muet and an H aspiré.
What are H muet and H aspiré?
To start, it is important to understand what H muet and H aspiré are.
In French, the H is a special letter, because it has no sound of its own. However, it has an influence on the pronunciation of the words that follow it.
H muet and H aspiré are two types of H with different behaviors.
The H muet is the one that has no influence on the pronunciation of the words that follow it. In other words, it is as if it were not there. Words starting with an H muet are generally connected to the article that precedes them, like in "l'homme" or "l'habitude".
We don't put "le" or "la", but we put "l'". That's what we call an elision.
In short, H muet is somewhat useless.
The H aspiré, on the other hand, prevents the liaison with the article, the little word that precedes it, and the elision of the final vowel of that same article. I cannot put "l'" with an H aspiré. I have to put "le" or "la".
This results in a small pause before the word starting with an H aspiré, like in "le héros" or "la honte".
I cannot say "“
l'héros”" but "le héros".
Similarly, I cannot make liaisons in plural. I cannot say “ les héros (LÉ ZÉRO)”, but “les héros (LÉ ÉRO).
How to differentiate between H muet and H aspiré?
So, how do you know if a word starts with an H muet or an H aspiré?
Unfortunately, there is no general rule to differentiate them. We cannot say whether a word has an H muet or an H aspiré without knowing the word.
Here are some tips to help you recognize them:
- Consult a dictionary: most dictionaries indicate whether a word begins with an H muet or aspiré. A sign (') before the word usually indicates an H aspiré.
- Pay attention to words of foreign origin: words of Germanic or English origin often have an H aspiré, like "hamburger".
- Memorize the most common words: knowing the most common words with an H muet or aspiré will be of great help. And you will avoid mispronouncing these words.
How to properly use H muet and H aspiré?
Now that you know how to differentiate between H muet and H aspiré, here's how to use them correctly.
Elision and liaison:
Elision is the removal of a vowel to avoid repetition. For example, I will not say “
la idée”, but “l’idée”. The removal of the “a” and the addition of an ‘ after the “l” is an elision.
Liaison is the pronunciation of two words as if they were one. For example: “Les enfants”, I will more naturally say “Les enfants (LÉ ZEN FANT)".
With an H muet, elision and liaison are possible
With an H muet, elision and liaison are possible. For example, "l'homme" (instead of "
le homme") or "un hôtel agréable" (with the liaison between "un" and "hôtel").
On the other hand, with an H aspiré, neither elision nor liaison are possible, so we say "le héros" (and not "
l'héros") or "les héros courageux" (without liaison between "les" and "héros").
Adjectives and pronouns:
Be careful with the agreement of adjectives and pronouns with words starting with an H muet or aspiré. For example, we say "cet homme" (with an H muet) but "ce héros" (with an H aspiré).
List of most common words with H muet and H aspiré:
Finally, here is a non-exhaustive list of the most common words with an H muet and an H aspiré. Don't hesitate to memorize them to help you use them correctly.
- le héros
- la haine
- la honte
- le hérisson
- le haricot
- le hamac
- le hamster
- le huit
To properly memorize the difference between the H muet and the H aspiré, I invite you to do the exercises right away. You can find the link in the description: Lesson and exercises on the H muet and the H aspiré.
Exercises on the H muet and the H aspiré: