French Pronunciation of the Letter H

French Pronunciation of the Letter H

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The letter H is always silent in French. However, there are two different kinds of H's: H muet and H aspiré. The type of H at the beginning of the word lets you know whether to make contractions and pronounce liaisons with that word. To find out whether the H in a particular word is muet or aspiré, check a good French dictionary. There will be an asterisk or some other symbol to distinguish the two kinds of H's.

French Words With H

Click these links to hear the words pronounced in French:
homme (man)
hockey (hockey)
haut (high)
hôtel (hotel)
hiver (winter)

Letter Combinations With H (Click for Detailed Lessons)


H Muet

Most French H's are mute - that is, they are not pronounced and the word acts as if it begins with a vowel. This means that contractions and liaisons are required. For example, le + homme contracts to l'homme - you can't say "le homme." And les hommes is pronounced with a liaison: lay zuhm.
Here are the most common French words that begin with H muet. For nouns, the gender is provided (in parentheses):
habile skillful
habilité (f) fitness
habiller to dress
habits (m) clothes
habiter to live in
habitude (f) habit
hacker (m) hacker
Hadès (m) Hades
hadj (m) hajj
hadron (m) hadron
hagard distraught
Haïti (m) Haiti
haleine (f) breath
Halloween (f) Halloween
halluciner to hallucinate
halo- (prefix)
harmonica (m) harmonica
harmonie (f) harmony
harpagon (m) skinflint, Scrooge
Hawaï (m) Hawaii
hebdomadaire weekly
hébergement (m) lodging
héberger to house
hébéter to daze, stupefy
hébreu (m) Hebrew
hectare (m) hectare
hectique hectic
hédonisme (m) hedonism
hégémonie (f) hegemony
hélicoptère (m) helicopter
hélium helium
hélix helix
Helsinki Helsinki
hématome (m) hematoma
hémisphère (m) hemisphere
hémophile hemophiliac
hémorragie (f) hemorrhage
hémorroïde (f) hemorrhoid
hépatite (f) hepatitis
herbage (m) pasture
herbe (f) grass
hérédité (f) heredity
hériter to inherit
héroïne (f) heroin, heroine
herpès (m) herpes
hésiter to hesitate
hétérosexuel heterosexuel
heure (f) hour
heureux happy
hexagone (m) hexagon
hiberner hibernate
hibiscus (m) hibiscus
hier yesterday
hilare beaming
Himalaya (m) the Himalayas
hindou Hindu
hip-hop (m) hip-hop
hippodrome (m) racetrack
hippopotame (m) hippopotamus
hirondelle (f) swallow
hirsute hairy, shaggy
histoire (f) story, history
hiver (m) winter
holo- (prefix)
hologramme (m) hologram
homéopathie (f) homeopathy
homicide (m) homicide
hommage (m) tribute
homme (m) man
homo- (prefix)
honnête honest
honneur (m) honor
honorer to honor
hôpital (m) hospital
horaire (m) schedule, timetable
horizon (m) horizon
horloge (f) clock
hormone (f) hormone
horoscope (m) horoscope
horreur (f) horror
horrible horrible
horrifier to horrify
horticulture (f) horticulture
hospitalité (f) hospitality
hostile hostile
hôte (m) host
huile (f) oil
huître (f) oyster
humain (m) human
humble humble
humeur (f) mood
humide humid
hyacinthe (f) hyacinth
hybride (m) hybrid
hydr- (prefix)
hydraulique hydraulic
hydrogène (m) hydrogen
hygiène (f) hygiene
hyper- (prefix)
hypo- (prefix)
hystérie (f) hysteria

H Aspiré

H's in French words borrowed from other languages are usually aspirate. Though the H aspiré is not pronounced, it acts like a consonant; that is, contractions are not permitted with it and liaisons are not made in front of it. For example, le + hockey does not contract to "l'hockey" but remains le hockey. And les héros (the heroes) is pronounced lay ay ro. If you were to pronounce this with a liaison, lay zay ro, you would be saying les zéros (the zeros).
Here are the most common French words that begin with H aspiré.
hâbleur boaster
la hache axe
hacher to chop
le hachisch hashish
le haddock haddock
la haie hedge
le haïku haiku
le haillon rag
la haine hatred
haïr to hate
haïssable detestable
halal halal
le hâle suntan
haleter to pant
le hall hall
la halle market
le hallier thicket, brush
le halo halo
la halte break
le hamac hammock
le hamburger hamburger
le hameau hamlet
le hammam hammam
la hampe pole
le hamster hamster
la hanche hip
le hand-ball handball
le handicap handicap
le hangar shed
hanter to haunt
happer to snatch, grab
harangue harangue
harasser to exhaust
harceler to harass
la harde herd
harder to leash
hardi daring
le hareng herring
la hargne spiteful anger
le haricot bean
harnacher to harness
le harpail herd
la harpe harp
le harpon harpoon
le hasard luck, chance
la hâte haste
hâter to hasten
haut high
la hauteur height
le havre haven
hercher to haul
le hère wretch, young stag
le hérisson hedgehog
la hernie hernia
le héron heron
le héros hero
la herse hearse, harrow
le hêtre beech tree
heurter to strike
le hiatus hiatus
le hibou owl
le hic snag
le hickory hickory
hideux hideous
la hiérarchie hierarchy
le hiéroglyphe hieroglyphe
hippie hippie
hisser to hoist, heave, haul
le hobby hobby
hocher to nod
le hockey hockey
la Hollande Holland
le homard lobster
Hong-Kong Hong Kong
la Hongrie Hungary
la honte shame
le hoquet hiccup
hors outside
la houe hoe
la houille coal
la houle swell
houleux stormy
le hooligan hooligan
la houppe tuft
houspiller to scold
la housse cover
housser to cover
le houx holly
le hublot porthole
la huche chest, trunk
huer to boo
le huguenot Huguenot
huit eight
hululer to hoot
humer to smell
hurler to shriek

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