If you went to Paris with someone you liked, you might have great rapport over a gourmet meal and then go to see the ballet…..
rapport gourmet ballet
… but one thing you would not do is to pronounce the letter < t > at the ends of those three words. French is famous for its silent letters – including silent < t > in places – but English tries to trip students up as well! Fortunately, this only happens in a few case. Here are some pointers to help you learn the patterns:
1. Some spellings (almost) always produce a silent
Common word spellings that (almost) always produce a silent < t >:
Some examples include:
-ften: often (can also be said with < t >), soften
2. Some spellings produce a silent < t > in connected speech
There are other spellings where the < t > is not necessarily silent but can be silent in fast, connected speech. This can occur both within a word and between words. The pattern of spelling where this occurs is:
fricative + < t > + consonant
Some examples include:
Within a word: lastly, postman, coastguard, wristband
Between words: blurriest photos, aircraft problems, robust theory, weirdest coincidence
3. French loanwords keep their original silent < t >
Of course, being such close neighbours, English and French have exchanged many words and ideas over the years. In some French loanwords, we try to keep something of the original pronunciation, (I’m sure our French students might laugh at this), and this includes keeping the original silent < t >:
ballet, gourmet, rapport, ricochet, penchant
Silent < t > almost always occurs in -ften, -sten and -stle
Silent < t > is possible in fricative + < t > + consonant
Silent < t > is often kept in French loanwords
This article uses English IPA symbols – learn each of them with pronunciation notes, diagrams and audio in Pronunciation Studio’s free Starter Pack.
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.