FR: continue-t-il, a-t-il, etc. - "t" euphonique/analogique dans l'inversion sujet-verbe

Discussion in 'French and English Grammar / Grammaire française et anglaise' started by Whodunit, Oct 16, 2004.

  1. Whodunit

    Whodunit Senior Member

    Deutschland ~ Deutsch/Sächsisch
    Moderator note: multiple threads merged to create this one

    I’ve got so many questions, because I started learning French in school and we doesn’t learn it fast enough to me, so here’re my questions:

    1st Do you have to put a “-t-” between “continue” and “il”?
    e.g.: “Comment continue-(t-)il?”
    and in the preterit ?
    e.g.: “Comment continuait-(t-)il?”

    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 18, 2009
  2. ishatar

    ishatar Senior Member

    France, French
    1. Yes, because continue-il would sound very ugly (and is simply incorrect).

    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 18, 2009
  3. Focalist Senior Member

    European Union, English
    Continue-t-il, but Continuait-il.
    You have to put a linking -t whenever -il follows a verb that does not end in t (or d). "Continuait" already has that t.

    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 18, 2009
  4. Aoyama Senior Member

    川崎市、巴里 (黎)
    français Clodoaldien

    Here are some food for thought :
    the -t-il /-t-elle form (question or inverted ) is called a euphonic T , used as a kind of liaison (analogical liaison) because of the phonetical hiatus caused by two vowels (here e and i ).
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 18, 2009
  5. CélineK. Senior Member

    Il y a des textes du niveau avancé qui présentent l'inversion des verbes
    -er comme ça. Le problème c'est que, quand le dernier son du verbe est un "t", il semble superflu d'ajouter un autre "t". Peut-on écrire: "écoute il...?" "chante il?" etc.
  6. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    English (England)
    Non - on met "chante-t-il" etc parce que ça se prononce "chanteh til".
  7. tiwika Member

    Sweden, swedish
    I don't quite know how to use the t you put in between... And this doesn't feel quite right..

    Why did she start with the singing?
    my attempt:
    Pourquoi a-t-elle commencé avec la chanson ?

    When and why did she start to sing alone?
    my attempt
    Quand, et pourquoi a-t-elle commancé à chanter seule?

    Merci d'avance
  8. pieanne

    pieanne Senior Member

    Nice Hinterland
    The 't' is inserted to make the pronounciation easier... You use it whenthe verb ends with a vowel, and the following pronoun begins with a vowel:
    quand a-t-il/a-t-elle/a-t-on commencé...
  9. tie-break Senior Member

    Tes phrases me semblent correctes :)
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 29, 2012
  10. Jfoe Member

    What is the reason for a "t" instead of just "il" (besides better flow, if there is one)?
  11. bloomiegirl

    bloomiegirl Senior Member

    New York
    US English
    I believe that it is strictly for the sake of pronunciation. See this Wiki article.
  12. CapnPrep Senior Member

    This is not really a case of liaison (anymore), but the information in the Wikipedia article is correct. The "t" is an analogical extension of the 3rd person verb ending of certain verbs in older stages of French.

    According to linguists, the explanation for modern French is that when there is subject-verb inversion, the 3rd person pronouns are pronounced [til] (il and ils), [tɛl] (elle and elles), and [tɔ̃] (on). But orthographically, the [t] is represented either as part of the verb or as a disconnected letter, as in appelle-t-il.
  13. Maurice92 Senior Member

    France french
    A "t" is added when the verb ends with a vowel "e " or " non stressed a" as in " mange-t-il ?
    This is called a " t euphonique" , that is to say " for good pronunciation", for avoiding the sequence of two oral consonants.
    The "t euphonique" has nothing to do with the normal ending of the 3rd person of the verb.
    There is no need for a "t euphonique" when the verb end with a "t" or with any consonant.
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 29, 2012
  14. MaybeLater Member

    British English
    I don't think the "-t-" rule has been explained very clearly yet.

    It is used in inversion when the subject begins with a vowel and the verb ends with a vowel.

    "A-t-il une voiture?" simply means "Does he have a car?", but "a-il" wouldn't sound very fluid so the French add in a "t" just to make it sound better.

    Some more examples:

    At least, I think my examples are correct. ;) I'd ask a French native to just double check.
  15. cougargirl07 Member

    In all of the books I've used, a sentence such as "does she invite" would be "invite-t-elle" because of the euphony rule. But a prof told me once that when the verb ends in t such as the example I gave, it's not strictly necessary to add another t back in. What is the official rule?
    Thanks so much!
  16. Missrapunzel

    Missrapunzel Senior Member

    French (France)
    The rule is that when the verb ends with a vowel, it needs an additional t.
  17. Grop

    Grop Senior Member

    Hi, we wouldn't add a t if the verb actually ended with a t, as in Que fait-elle ?
  18. cougargirl07 Member

    Thanks so much for your replies. Apparently that prof steered me in the wrong direction!
  19. brian

    brian Senior Member

    AmE (New Orleans)
    It depends how your prof said it. If he said, "When the verb ends in a t sound," then he is mistaken/not specific enough. But perhaps he meant, "When the verb, written out, ends in a t," in which case he'd be correct.
  20. Fred_C

    Fred_C Senior Member

    On écrit "écoute-t-il", et on prononce [ekut@til]
    (Le @ représente un petit e la tête en bas)
  21. bloomiegirl

    bloomiegirl Senior Member

    New York
    US English
    As follows, in phonetic characters: [ekutətil]
  22. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    English (England)
    The reason is that French pronunciation developed from the Latin in different ways depending on the place of the word in question in the sentence.

    In "il chante" the "chante" comes from Latin "ILLE CANTAT" by regular phonetic change where the T stopped being pronounced when in final position (the French final -e represents that Latin A which itself has ceased to be pronounced in many varieties of French since the spelling became standard).

    In "chante-t-il" this comes from "CANTAT ILLE". Here in the pronunciation of the phrase the final T of CANTAT was pronounced as starting the following syllable of ILLE. So it didn't fall as in the first example because it wasn't phonologically analysed as being "in final position".

    As such it's not true to say that this "t" is added "for euphonic reasons" but rather that it didn't fall in the first place for euphonic reasons.
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2009
  23. CapnPrep Senior Member

    I'm afraid this is not correct. We discussed this topic briefly in another recent thread:
    FR: ephelcystic "words"
  24. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    English (England)
    I disagree CapnPrep - or at least I see no evidence in that thread to indicate that it completely disappeared (in inverted sentences) and then was reintroduced. Yes it fell from "il chante(t)" but that doesn't imply it necessarily fell from "chante(t)il". Why do you claim it did and was reintroduced?
  25. Maître Capello

    Maître Capello Mod et ratures

    Suisse romande
    French – Switzerland
    But CapnPrep is correct… See the below quote from Grevisse:
  26. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    English (England)
    Maître - note that all but one of those examples are in the future tense, we're talking about the present.

    Usage in Old to mid French was incredibly variable - this is why we still have flux today as to which words pronounce the final consonant, which don't, which usually do in liaison and which can but usually don't etcetera. (Imagine those modern day French accents you can think of where people wouldn't make a liaison which you would consider in standard speech to be obligatory).

    It's difficult to rely on spelling as well - I could find old French examples where the t is kept (a quick google search finds Par quele gent quiet il espleiter tant? from La chanson de Roland) - but either way round spelling doesn't necessarily reflect usage.

    Bearing in mind that the majority of verbs are Latin -ARE French -er verbs, it seems hard to believe that they were all remodelled on the relatively few others, particularly since the -t form is attested into the history of French.

    I'm not saying this theory is necessarily wrong, but it does seem to me to need a bit more support than some future verb endings from middle French.
  27. CapnPrep Senior Member

    Spelling was relatively transparent (i.e. phonetic) in the Old French period. It is probably true that the final t in 3rd person singular verbs ending in -Vt survived longer in prevocalic contexts, and this is to some extent reflected in writing, but eventually (by the 12th century) this final consonant disappeared in all environments.

    Of course you might want to claim that for whatever reasons, people started writing "chante il" even though they were actually still saying "chantet il" (3 syllables). But as I mentioned in the other thread, there are plenty of examples of things like "semble il" and "aime il" in poetry (later than Roland, of course), and we can tell from the meter that they must have been pronounced as two syllables (i.e. with elision of the "e", which must therefore have been word-final).

    The analogical reintroduction of "t" happened much later, at a time when people had started writing grammar books giving explicit advice about pronunciation, so we know that the pronunciation of the "t" was at first considered to be an unacceptable innovation found only in vulgar speech.

    Maybe there were some isolated dialects in which final "t" survived continuously all the way from Latin. A lot of people seem to believe this, but I have never seen such a suggestion in any scholarly work, because there is absolutely no evidence for it, and we don't need to assume it in order to explain the later reappearance of the "t".
  28. Maître Capello

    Maître Capello Mod et ratures

    Suisse romande
    French – Switzerland
    I don't get your point since both the present and future tenses of French -er verbs are written without a trailing t in the 3rd person singular. […] Also, the excerpt I just quoted was taken from a section about the analogical t for all tenses, whether present or future…
  29. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    English (England)
    CapnPrep - I've already unsuccessfully scan-read the thread you've linked to once for the evidence that the -t disappeared for good, and not wanting to read the whole thing again searched it for "semble" "aime" and "poetry" and got no hits. If you have some evidence in favour of this I am more than happy to read it (honestly!)

    In the meantime it seems reasonable to me to think that if a starting language contained the "t", that in attested early manuscripts of the language today have the "t" and we know from actually hearing the modern language that a "t" is still pronounced that the weight of evidence must lie with those who believe that in the majority of verbs it disappeared only to be reintroduced a few generations later to show that this happened.

    Given what we see from liaison forms in general I certainly find it easy to believe that forms such as "aime il" were said on occasion, particularly in a time when standardisation was not enforced (and particularly if to scan it were necessary to lose a syllable?).
  30. CapnPrep Senior Member


    I dug up a couple of examples for you (sorry I don't have the complete references here):

    • Port’il son couraige felon ? (Advenir, mid-15th cent.) – elision indicated orthographically
    • A / donc/ques / s’a/van/ce elle (Marot) – scansion requires elision
    In general, I would like to make it clear that we are not the first people to wonder about the evolution of this feature of French grammar. Generations of scholars have studied the available evidence and as far as I know, the history of this phenomenon is quite firmly established and agreed upon. Your hypothesis is perfectly plausible, given some knowledge of Latin and of modern French (and a belief that the periods in between were vaguely chaotic), but I have to go with the experts on this one.
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2009
  31. Fred_C

    Fred_C Senior Member


    In my opinion, euphonic reasons are never true for a foreign learner, because by definition, euphony is the way of making spelling cope with what sounds right to a native ear.

    If you are a learner, what sounds right and what sounds wront makes no sense, you have to learn what is right, and what is wrong.
    And when you know it well, only then the wrong version will sound wrong to you.
  32. bloomiegirl

    bloomiegirl Senior Member

    New York
    US English
    IMHO, this is true for native speakers as well. ;)

    Also IMHO, native or not, if one learns the wrong version, it can sound just as correct as the right version. Native ears are not infallible. :eek:
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2009
  33. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    English (England)
    I don't think anyone was claiming that this was euphony (or not) for foreign learners of French. Those who claim that such a "t" ins "s'appelle-t-il" or the "l" in "que l'on" are "euphonic" are referring to native speakers - and by "euphonic" really they mean "what sounds right", as you suggest.

    I don't imagine that in the middle ages people were covering their ears and running away in aesthetic horror every time they heard someone say "chante-il ?":D
  34. callejeando New Member

    English - Ireland

    For my French class I'm translating a prose from English to French, and since it's literary we have to use the passé simple.

    My question is about inversion after direct speech when a person's proper name is being used. If a person's name is being used and that name starts with a vowel, do you add a 't', the same way you would with "a-t-il dit"?

    For example, I've come across the phrase " 'It will never work,' announced Emily." Would the inversion after speech be "annonca-t-Emily" or "annonca Emily"?

    Thank you/Merci!
  35. atcheque

    atcheque mod errant (Fr-En, français, čeština)

    Česko (2009)
    français, France

    Le t euphonique ne s'utilise qu'avec les pronoms.
  36. Lacuzon

    Lacuzon Senior Member

    French - France
    Bonsoir et bienvenue,

    You have to choose between annonça Émilie and Émilie annonça-t-elle.
  37. CapnPrep Senior Member

    I don't think so… Complex inversion (Émilie annonça-t-elle) is not correct in quotative phrases (incises) — only simple pronominal inversion (annonça-t-elle) and stylistic inversion (annonça Émilie). See for example:
    L’inversion dans l’incise (J. Desrosiers)

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