There is so much to say about this short phrase.
The word “tout” means all/every. The final –t is silent (except before a vowel), just like the vast majority of French words that end in –t. The word in red gives an idea of the pronunciation.
Tout le monde "too" All the world / everyone
Like most French adjectives in the feminine form, tout acquires an extra –e. This final –e is silent, but it means that you do pronounce the ‘t’:
Mon fils peut jouer à des jeux vidéo toute la journée, du matin au soir. "toot"
My son can play video games all day long, from morning to night.
It also has plural forms:
Toutes les demandes sont effectuées par écrit. "toot"
All requests shall be made in writing. (feminine plural)
Je lis un journal français tous les samedis. "too"
I read a French newspaper every Saturday. (masculine plural)
In this example above, the final –s is silent. However…
Bonjour à tous ! "toose" (rhymes with "loose")
When “tous” means “everyone”, and not “all the…” then you do pronounce the final –s.
So if this last phrase means “Hello everyone”, why did I feel the need to repeat myself in the original greeting?
Cultural reference point
The drive to make language as inclusive as possibly has become increasingly prevalent in the English speaking world in recent years. This is probably even truer in places where they speak languages with gender distinction (see my recent blog on the Gender of Nouns for more detail on this).
A radio host will generally make sure to address the listeners covering both bases:
“Chères auditrices, chers auditeurs” (dear female and male listeners)
And these days, no politician worth their salt would fail to say:
“Chères citoyennes et chers citoyens”, (dear citizens) rather than the old-fashioned convention of defaulting to the masculine in general-plural phrases.
So, this is the inclusive, up-to-date way to address a mixed group of people:
Bonjour à toutes et à tous ! "toots ... toose"
Hello everyone – ladies and gentlemen
Last thing on pronunciation:
We established earlier that the final –s on tous is silent when it means “all”, but it is pronounced when it means “everyone”.
The final –s on toutes is generally silent, but it is pronounced when followed by a vowel sound, as in this phrase in question now. The “breaking” of rules of pronunciation in order to make phrases slide together more sweetly is called euphony, by the way.
The phrase in context
Away from the vagaries of French grammar for a moment, I would like to say in the most humble and heartfelt way, “Merci à toutes et à tous” to you, mes chères étudiantes et étudiants. As some of you know, I lost an awful lot to the pandemic – all my business classes dried up more or less overnight, and I wondered at one point whether I’d be able to continue at all. I am so grateful to everyone who is reading this, whether you have just recently joined a group, or whether you are one of my originals! Onwards and upwards – hopefully gaining more and more confidence and proficiency in the language but also meeting new people and learning from others’ experiences of this wonderful language and country.
Andrew Wenger, SameSky Languages
Many of our French classes are now full, but there are a few places in certain groups, especially at the beginner level. Please contact me here if you would like to find out more about joining a class