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“Il va falloir que l'on tienne le coup jusqu'à lundi…”

“We're going to have to cope until Monday…”

One of our listeners emailed us this morning, asking about the l' in the above sentence from one of our earlier lessons.

Technically speaking, the l' in this case is called une consonne euphonique, that is, a 'euphonic' consonant. Although it has the appearance of a definite article (le, la, l'), the l' has no meaning whatever. Its sole function is to facilitate pronunciation and to avoid the collision of vowels from one word to the next (que on).

The use of the euphonic consonant l' is very common. For example, we will find sentences like:

  • L'un de mes amis est arrivé tard.
    = One of my friends arrived late.
  • Les films que l'on a vus…
    = The films we've seen…

Another common consonne euphonique is the letter t which we find in the interrogative:

  • Où va-t-on ce matin?
    = Where are we going this morning?
  • Et Paul… parle-t-il allemand aussi?
    = And Paul… does he speak German, too?

Regarding our example sentence, above, note that it is also possible to simply say '… qu'on tienne le coup…', that is, without the l'.

Finally, there are few references to the consonne euphonique l' in French textbooks, perhaps because of its rather 'intangible' function.

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