Ça ne rime à rien.

Ça ne rime à rien.

sahn REE mah reeYAA. Click below to hear the sound.

That makes no sense at all.

Literally, that doesn’t rhyme with anything! A fun way to say that something is nonsense.

Notice, in the pronunciation key, how the last sound of one word sometimes carries over to the next word: For example, the m in rime links to the à that follows. That’s called liaison (lee-ay-ZAW), a fancy word for linking. La liaison is most often associated with verbs and their subjects, or nouns and their adjectives. There are rules for when you may, when you must, and when you may not make a liaison.

Here, however, the reason for la liaison is a little different. The rules of pronunciation in French call for every syllable, insofar as possible, to start with a consonant sound and end with a vowel sound. That includes syllables formed by crossing over from one word to another. So instead of pronouncing rime à as “reem ah”, it is pronounced as “ree mah”.

In fact, if you were to hesitate in the middle of that sentence right between those two words–fishing for the next word, for example–you would say “ree…..mah”.

It’s important to be familiar with this phenomenon, because that’s what’s behind the inability to understand spoken French that learners sometimes experience. Words are chameleons, changing their characteristics depending on where you find them in a sentence. That’s what may make you say, when you hear someone speaking French, Ça ne rime à rien!

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