Tonic Accent

C'est la pomme qui n'est pas bonne - accent tonique
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Accent tonique

There’s no word stress in French (see rhythm lesson), so you have two options for emphasizing a particular word. One has to do with pronunciation (affective accent) and the other is grammatical: the tonic accent.

The French tonic accent has a few different forms. The bolding indicates the word that would be stressed in English.

1) Repetition

Put the important word at the beginning or end of the sentence, and also refer to it with a pronoun within the sentence.

Par exemple…

Instead of saying
Je ne connais pas Anne.   I don’t know Anne.
   say    
Anne, je ne la connais pas.
   or
Je ne la connais pas, Anne.
  I don’t know Anne.
     
Rather than
Ce n’est pas bon.   That’s no good.
   try    
Ça, ce n’est pas bon.
   or
Ce n’est pas bon, ça.
  That‘s no good.
     
In place of    
Je l’ai fait.   I did it.
   insist    
Moi, je l’ai fait.
   or
Je l’ai fait, moi.
  I did it.

2) C’est … que/qui

Put the emphasized word between c’est and the relative pronoun que or qui (depending on whether it’s the subject or object of the verb).

Instead of saying
Je ne connais pas Anne.   I don’t know Anne.
   say    
C’est Anne que je ne connais pas.   I don’t know Anne.
     
Rather than
La pomme n’est pas bonne.   The apple is no good.
   try    
C’est la pomme qui n’est pas bonne.   The apple is no good.
     
In place of    
Je l’ai fait.   I did it.
   insist    
C’est moi qui l’ai fait.*   I did it.

*Lesson on why it’s ai rather than a coming soon.

3) Supertonic accent

Use both of the above for even more emphasis.

Anne, c’est elle que je ne connais pas.   Anne, she’s the one I don’t know.
La pomme, c’est ça qui n’est pas bonne.   The apple, that’s what’s no good.
C’est moi qui l’ai fait, moi !   Really, I did it!

 Related lessons


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