le (prononciation du E caduc / schwa)


Hi all
I noticed that when people in French say "le monde" they pronounce it as
"leu mo(n)d" but when they says something as "ici tout le monde" they pronounce it as "isee tul mo(n)d"

Well, my phonetical transcription might not be one of the best but what I mean is that in the second example the E from LE is dropped and the L is attacched to the previous word.

I don't know wheter I'm dreaming it or there is a pronouncation rule that explain this phenomenon.
  • Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    Danny, the written language is a frozen moment, representing the spoken language in an ideal form. But human beings are lazy, and their tongues and vocal cords never accurately reproduce this ideal.

    We write: Mrs Thatcher often handbagged members of her government.
    We say: Missiz Thatche ofen hambagd membez ov er guvment.

    So the French, when they speak fast, drop unemphasised letters, and -e in particular. As you speak French faster, you'll do the same. No rule.


    Moderando ma non troppo (French-English, CC Mod)
    Actually there IS a phonetic rule here, Keith.

    Normally the e caduc is not pronounced when there is no more than one consonant sound on either side of it

    tout le monde -- /tu l mond/

    If there are two or more consonants on either side of the e caduc, it is pronounced

    combien coûte Le Monde ? - /kut lə mond/

    This tendancy is so strong that people sometimes will add in an e caduc where it doesn't exist:

    Arc de Triomphe - /ar kəd triof/

    (this is a bit like our saying in Englsh "a whole nother thing" because we are used to saying another)

    PS - This doesn't work the same way in accents of southern France, where e caduc is most usually pronounced all the time.
    Last edited:

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    Interesting, Wildan; I've been speaking French occasionally for 50 years, and daily for the past 20, and I've never heard of that "rule". I'd say that it's actually a description of what most people do, rather than a rule to learn. (And I have doubts about whether the -e on the end of le is actually caduc.)

    But that's the difference between descriptive, proscriptive and prescriptive grammar, I think.


    Senior Member
    That's a very hard question in french pronounciation.
    Wildan is right : this e is caduc but not always the same way ! It depends on the area, on the social level, on the age of the locutor...

    Just an example :
    je te le dis :
    ---> [ʒətələdi] in south France (my pronounciation)
    or ---> [ʒtələdi]
    or ---> [ʒtəldi] most frequent in north France
    or ---> [ʒətlədi]
    or ---> [ʒətəldi]
    Usually we keep an [ə]out of three but neither always nor everywhere the same !

    This tendancy is so strong that people sometimes will add in an e caduc wher it doesn't exist:
    Arc de Triomphe - /ar kəd triof/
    That's true, but you can as well have : [arkədətriõf]

    A good new : you can pronounce as you want : it's never wrong and always understood !
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