Affective Accent

C'est ma-gni-fique! Accent affectif
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Accent affectif

In English, you can emphasize an important word or syllable by pronouncing it more loudly, but that’s not the case in French, which always wants to maintain its musical rhythm.

Instead of word stress, French speakers highlight the important word with pauses or by elongating certain sounds. The three different options are collectively known as the affective accent.

Pause between syllables

The most common affective accent is pronounced with a short pause between each syllable.

C’était ma | gni | fique ! [say tay mah | nyee | feek] It was magnificent!  
For | mi | dable ! [fuhr | mee | dahbl] Great!
Im | po | ssible ! [eh(n) | puh | seebl] Impossible!

Pause before the word

Note that you can’t do this if the word is subject to enchaînement or a required liaison.

C’est | incroyable ! [say | eh(n) krwah yahbl] That’s incredible!
C’était | magnifique ! [say tay | mah nyee feek] It was magnificent!
Quelle idée | extraordinaire ! [keh lee day | ehk strah uhr dee nehr] What an extraordinary idea!
Vous êtes | géniaux ! [vu zeht | zhay nyoh] You are great!

Elongate a consonant sound

Note that this sound may be created by enchaînement or a liaison.

C’est formidable ! [say ffuhr mee dabl] That’s great!
C’est incroyable !
C’est incroyable !  
[say tteh(n) krwah yabl]
[say teh(n) kkrrwah yabl]
That’s incredible!
Quel idiot !
Quel idiot !
[keh lli dyoh]
[keh li ddyoh]
What an idiot!

 There’s also a grammatical option for emphasizing an important word: the tonic accent.

 Related lessons


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