Aspirated "h" - what does this mean?

KarthikA2Kwiziq community member

Aspirated "h" - what does this mean?

Can you give some examples of the aspirated "h", as in when the h is aspirated vs. unaspirated at the beginning of a word? Thanks!

Asked 1 year ago
CécileKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Hi Karthik,

There are two types of -H in French :

- H  aspiré ( aspirate)

- H muet ( mute/silent) 

1. -  H aspiré ( aspirate

It works like a consonant, it is not sounded or aspirated as its name indicates but its presence is felt by the lack of elision and liaison.

e.g.

le haut = the top

en haut = at the top

la hâche= the axe

le haricot = the bean

la haine = hatred

le hibou = the owl

la harpe = the harp

le hublot = the porthole 

le hareng = herring

Verbs 

Haïr = to hate 

Hâcher = to mince

Hâleter = to pant

2. H muet ( mute)

An H mute ( or silent) is a consonant that is not sounded ( unlike in English) just as if it wasn’t there at all. You will use an elision and a liaison.

l’hôtel = the hotel

l’hôpital = the hospital

l’heure = the time

l’horloge = the clock

l’homme = the man

les hommes ( sounding the -s as a -z) = men 

It is just a case of getting used to which ones are sounded or not.

Bonne Continuation!

 

MaartenC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

The term is essentially a misnomer as, although the words determined as 'h aspiré' may have had an aspirated, or pronounced, h at some stage, they are not pronounced differently in French than expected for words that have 'h muet'. h aspiré words however do not undergo elision or liaison as the h at the beginning of the word is treated as a consonant, not a vowel.There is no easy way to 'guess' (even though foreign words are often in the list) - another one of the features of French vocabulary that has to be learned as the word is encountered. See link https://www.lawlessfrench.com/pronunciation/h-aspire/  

IsabelleB1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

The answers to this question of yours, Karthik, would have made an excellent lesson by itself, especially in preparation for  the extensive lesson on Tout/Tous/Toute/Toutes.  Beforehand, I hadn't realized there were two distinctions of pronounced "h"s, so that in testing myself for improvement using the example sentences, I kept getting one or two wrong but didn't understand why. Thanks for your question --and its answers, Cecile and Maarten. 

CécileKwiziq team member

Hi Isabelle, 

The examples are from a lesson I have been working on but which had to be put aside as other material had to be created but I am glad you found it useful.

The prononciation of the -h is interesting across languages and it is why French people pronouncing English words often sound as if they are 'dropping their aitches' and the Spanish often make it sound like a jota ( -j).

Bonne Continuation!

Aspirated "h" - what does this mean?

Can you give some examples of the aspirated "h", as in when the h is aspirated vs. unaspirated at the beginning of a word? Thanks!

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