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Pronouncing "Plus"

If you listen to Jean-Marc’s description of Mediterranean beaches versus those in western France and the eastern United States, you might be struck by the way he pronounces the word plus (more):

 

Les plages sont beaucoup plus petites, avec beaucoup plus de gens.

The beaches are a lot smaller, with a lot more people.

Caption 8, Jean-Marc - La plage - Part 1

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Did you notice that he didn’t pronounce the “s” in the first instance of plus, but did pronounce it in the second? That’s no inconsistency on his part—Jean-Marc is actually obeying the tricky pronunciation rules of this common little adverb. 

The general rule of thumb for plus is fairly easy to remember: when it’s used to mean more of something (plus de...), the “s” is pronounced; when it’s used in a negative sense (ne… plus [no more], non plus [neither]), the “s” is not pronounced:

 

Je ne savais plus qui j'étais.

I didn't know who I was anymore.

Caption 16, Melissa Mars - Mozart, L'opéra rock - Part 1

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Mais toi non plus tu n'as pas changé.

But you, you have not changed either.

Caption 25, Le Journal - Retour sur scène de Julio Iglesias

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This becomes especially important in informal conversation, when a lot of French speakers tend to drop the ne in negative constructions. So if someone says je veux plus de pain and they don’t pronounce the “s,” you can tell that they don’t want any more bread even though they left out the ne. If they do pronounce the “s,” you can pass them the bread basket! 

A different rule applies when plus is used comparatively, i.e., when it’s followed by an adjective. In that case, the “s” is usually not pronounced (like when Jean-Marc says plus petites in the first example), unless the adjective begins with a vowel:

 

Voici celle qui est sans doute la maison la plus illuminée d'Alsace.

Here is what is without a doubt the most illuminated house in Alsace.

Caption 4, Alsace 20 - Alsace: les plus belles déco de Noël!

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If the adjective begins with a vowel, the “s” of plus is pronounced like a “z” to follow the rules of liaison, which you can learn about in our previous lesson on that subject.

The “s” is also pronounced when plus is used at the end of a sentence to mean “more” and when it is used as a noun (le plus):

 

Du coup, ils ont commencé à être plus proches de moi et à me parler plus.

So they started to be closer to me and to talk to me more.

Caption 35, B-Girl Frak - Limoges

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Qui peut le plus peut le moins.

He who can do more can do less. 

 

So to sum up, here’s a general breakdown of the pronunciation of plus:

The “s” is pronounced:

-in the expression plus de....

-when plus is followed by an adjective beginning with a vowel.

-when plus is at the end of a sentence and means “more.”

-when plus is used as a noun.  

The “s” is not pronounced:

-in negative plus constructions (ne… plus, non plus).

-when plus is followed by an adjective beginning with a consonant. 

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Nous espérons que c'est un peu plus clair maintenant! (We hope that this is a bit clearer now!) Since it’s such a common word, plus appears in quite a large number of Yabla videos—you can find a list of them here. And stay tuned for a lesson on the opposite of plusmoins (less)—coming soon to Yabla. 

Thanks to subscriber Felicity S. for suggesting this lesson topic!

Either/Or

There are two ways of saying "either... or..." in French, and they both involve repeating one word. The first is the construction soit... soit.... Soit is a conjunction that marks a set of alternatives, and it is also spelled the same as the third-person present subjunctive form of the verb être (to be):  

 

Les médecins étaient soit morts, soit partis.

The doctors were either dead or gone.

Caption 4, TV8 Mont Blanc - De retour de Haïti

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A similar construction with soit is que ce soit... que ce soit..., which can best be translated as "be it... or...":  

 

Que ce soit déposer dans le sable, que ce soit déposer dans la neige...

Be it landing on sand, or on snow...

Caption 26, Le Journal - École de pilotage

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The second way of saying "either... or..." is ou... ou.... Ou by itself just means "or" (not to be confused with , "where"), but when it is repeated to describe two or more choices or alternatives, the first ou means "either":

 

Ou vous pouvez le laisser tout simplement sur la plage, ou vous en servir comme cendrier.

You could either simply leave it on the beach or you could use it as an ashtray.

Caption 15, Jean-Marc - La plage

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Sometimes, bien can be added to ou to emphasize the distinction:

Ou bien il est très heureux, ou bien il est misérable. 

Either he's very happy or he's miserable.    

Note that you will often see a comma separating the alternatives soit... soit... and ou... ou... (soit morts, soit partis). 

Now that we've learned how to say "either... or...," we'll move on to its opposite, "neither... nor...." There is only one way to say this in French: ni... ni....

Ni vu ni connu

Neither seen nor known [on the sly]

When using ni... ni... with verb phrases, add a ne in front of the verb:

 

Nous ne sommes ni les premiers, ni les derniers.

We are neither the first nor the last.

Caption 3, La Conspiration d'Orion - Conspiration 2/4

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Sometimes, you might just find a single ni:

 

Cette femme habite un monde sans foi ni loi...

This woman inhabits a world without faith or law...

Caption 19, Le Journal - Milady

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So now, if you're ever asked to recite the unofficial creed of the US Postal Service in French, you won't hesitate to say:

"Ni la neige, ni la pluie, ni la chaleur, ni la nuit n'empêchent de fournir leur carrière avec toute la célérité possible".

"Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds." 

(The creed is actually a line from Herodotus.)

 

Vocabulary

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