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How to pronounce the French word: "plus"


- Have you heard the Swiss national anthem?

- No, why?

- It's pretty rubbish, but the flag's a big plus.



The French word plus has not one, not two, but three different pronunciations, depending on how it's used.

Rule of thumb: when plus has a positive meaning (e.g., more, extra, additional) it is pronounced “ploosse”, with a strong final –s sound.


When it is used as a negative adverb (meaning "no more"), it is usually pronounced “ploo”.


Aide-mémoire: subtract the ‘s’ sound when the word has a negative meaning and add it when it has a positive meaning.


If only it were as simple as this. Unfortunately…


Affirmative Adverb “ploosse

In the affirmative, Plus de means "more (than)" or "additional"

Je veux plus de vin. I want more wine.

Il y aura plus de choix la prochaine fois. There will be more choice next time.

Il a plus de cinq mille timbres dans sa collection He has more than 5000 stamps in his collection


Negative Adverb “ploo

On the other hand, in the negative, Ne ... plus is a negative adverb, meaning "no more/no longer" or "not anymore".

Je n’y vais plus. I don't go there anymore.

Je ne veux plus de vin. I don't want any more wine.

Plus de vin, merci. No more wine, thank you.

You don’t need the usual “ne” to make the negative, because there is no verb to negate*


Non plus

"neither" or "not ... either"

Je n'aime pas la bière non plus. I don't like beer either.

- Je ne suis pas très fort en maths. I’m not very good at maths

- Moi non plus ! Me neither!


*To make matters even more confusing, the ‘ne’ is often omitted in spoken, informal French, which makes it very important to pronounce “plus” correctly:

If you say “Je veux plus [ploo] de vin”, you may think you are asking for more wine, but it will be understood to mean that you don't want any more.

If you actually want some more (remember: extra, additional, ‘add’ the –s) then you should say “Je veux plus [ploosse] de vin”.


Side-note: Saying “Je veux…” is not considered quite so abrupt and rude as the English equivalent: “I want…”


Comparative/Superlative Adverb

This is probably the first one you learnt, but it’s quite complicated to get right.

When using plus as a comparative or superlative adverb it does not follow the above rule about pronouncing the final –s. It is silent again.


C’est plus cher It’s more expensive (silent ‘s’)


When the comparative or superlative plus is in the middle of a sentence, it is pronounced “ploo”, unless it comes immediately before a vowel, in which case the liaison rule kicks in and it is pronounced “plooz”. This is purely a case of euphony.


C’est plus intéressant It’s more interesting (elided ‘s’, pronounced like ‘z’)

Only when plus is at the end of a sentence, as in the very last example below, is it pronounced “ploosse”.


Plus ... que or plus ... de indicates superiority in comparatives and can compare the following:

adjectives

La France est plus grande que l'Espagne. France is larger than Spain.


adverbs

Elle parle plus doucement que toi. She speaks more slowly (gently) than you.


nouns

J'ai eu plus d'opportunités qu'eux. I had more opportunities than they did.


verbs

Il étudie plus que moi. He studies more than I do.


Le plus or le plus de indicates superiority in superlatives and can compare the following:


adjectives

La Russie est le plus grand pays Russia is the largest country


adverbs

Elle parle le plus clairement. She speaks the most clearly.


nouns

Il a le plus de T-shirts He has the most T-shirts


verbs

Elle étudie le plus. She studies the most.



Note on transliteration of the word “plus

Standard English lacks the ability to differentiate between “ou” and “u” in the way that French does. There are a few ‘minimal pairs’ of words: those that vary only by a single feature, which are obviously a potential source of confusion:


la rue the street la roue the wheel


j'ai bu I have drunk la boue the mud

vous you j'ai vu I have seen


sous under j'ai su I have known


Almost always, this will not cause a barrier to being understood, as the context will make it clear what you mean, but of course it is nice to make the effort to get close with the correct pronunciation.

If you know German, the respective sounds are the equivalents of the German ‘u’ – without and with an umlaut.


In order to make the French 'u', which is the German 'ü' sound, first make the noise of disgust: “Eiuw!” The sharp sound at the end is the nearest equivalent in English. Alternatively, say “ee” and then pucker up your lips as if to kiss or whistle, while still making the same sound. That’s it!




Andrew Wenger, SameSky Languages.

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