Philipp, a listener of French Your Way Podcast, recently emailed me with the following suggestion :
« J’ai écouté l’épisode sur la question quand on prononce le « s » de tous. Peut-être que ce serait aussi intéressant quand on fait la même chose avec ‘plus’. Merci !
(= I listened to the episode about when to pronounce the “s” at the end of tous. It may be interesting to do the same about “plus”. Thanks!”)
I thought it would be interesting to clarify this notion – so here’s the article! I’ve also designed and included a free worksheet for you!
In addition, I made a podcast episode with this question, which you can listen to here.
The different pronunciations of plus
There are actually three different possible pronunciations :
- without the “s” sound – written [ply] in IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet)
- with a “z” sound – [plyz]
- with an “s” sound – [plys]
Just like for the word tous, the difference in pronunciation is grammatical. This is why it is so important to understand grammar! If you hate (or fear) the very thought of French grammar, check out my article here. It may help you!
How to pronounce plus in additions
The plus sign (+) in maths is called “plus”, pronounced [plys].
How to pronounce plus in comparisons
The word plus also means “more” and is used for comparisons (eg. more expensive, more regularly, etc.).
There are four things we can actually compare :
- Adjectives (eg. expensive, tall, intelligent, important, etc.)
- Adverbs (eg. regularly, politely, intelligently, etc.)
- Nouns (eg. more money, more time, more teeth, more examples, etc.)
- Verbs (eg. : to work more, to sleep more, to drink more, etc.)
Comparing adjectives / adverbs
When the comparison refers to an adjective or an adverb, the “s” at the end of “plus” is silent : [ply].
Note : we will pronounce “plus” with a “z” sound [plyz] if the adjective/adverb starts with a vowel sound – simply because of the liaison!
Examples with adjectives :
- more expensive → plus cher [ply]
- taller (i.e more tall) →plus grand [ply]
- more intelligent → plus intelligent [plyz]
- more important → plus important [plyz]
Examples with adverbs :
- more regularly → plus regulièrement [ply]
- more politely : plus poliment [ply]
- more intelligently → plus intelligemment [plyz]
Comparing nouns / verbs
When the comparison refers to a noun or a verb, the “s” at the end of “plus” is pronounced : [plys].
Note : when you compare nouns, don’t forget to add “de” before the noun. (“De” is the preposition we use for quantities.)
Examples with nouns:
- more money → plus d’argent [plys]
- more time → plus de temps [plys]
- more teeth → plus de dents [plys]
- more examples → plus d’exemples [plys]
Examples with verbs:
- to work more → travailler plus [plys]
- to sleep more → dormir plus [plys]
- to drink more → boire plus [plys]
Why are there two different pronunciation rules ?
It’s to make the difference with the comparative “more” and the negation “no more”/”not anymore” (“ne … plus”, with the last word pronounced [ply]).
In spoken/informal French, we often drop the first part of the negation, i.e the “ne”.
“Je n’ai pas faim” often becomes “J’ai pas faim” (= I’m not hungry).
“Je n’ai plus faim” becomes “J’ai plus faim » (= I’m not hungry anymore).
The following sentence will therefore have a totally different meaning depending on the way it’s pronounced:
- Je travaille plus [plys] donc je gagne plus [plys] d’argent!
→ comparison referring to verbs
(= I work more therefore I earn more money)
- Je travaille plus [ply] donc je gagne plus [ply] d’argent.
→ negation : no more
In full French : Je ne travaille plus donc je ne gagne plus d’argent.
(= I don’t work anymore therefore I don’t earn any more money.)