In French, the double L is sometimes pronounced like an L and other times like a Y. How do you know when to pronounce it each way? This lesson explains the general rules and the inevitable exceptions.
Rules for Pronouncing LL
As a general rule, the double L after A, E, O, U, and Y is pronounced like an L: une balle, elle, mollement, une idylle, etc. If there are exceptions to this, I've never found them.
In words with I followed by LL, the rules are a bit more complicated. The double L is always pronounced like a Y in letter combinations with vowel + ILL:
- aill (e.g., taille)
- eill (oreille)
- euill (feuille)
- œill (œillet)
- ouill (grenouille)
- ueill (cueillir)
- uill (juillet)
And LL is pronounced like a Y in words such as fille, la Bastille, Millau, and chantilly.
However, there are also many words in which the double L is pronounced like an L (follow links to hear the words pronounced). This is the complete list:
- un bacille - germ, bacillus
- billevesées - nonsense
- un billion - trillion
- capillaire - capillary
- un codicille - codicil
- distiller - to distill
- une fibrille - small fiber (fibrillaire, fibrillation)*
- un krill - krill
- Lille - town in northern France
- lilliputien - Liliputian
- mille - thousand (un millénium, millier, etc.)
- un mille - mile (le millage)
- milli- (prefix)
- un milliard - billion (un milliardaire, le milliardième, etc.)
- un million - million (un millionaire, le millionième, etc.)
- osciller - to oscillate, swing
- un/e pupille* - ward of the state
- une pupille* - pupil
- une scille - scilla
- une spongille - spongilla
- tranquille - calm, tranquil
- un verticille - verticil
- un vexille - vexillum
- une ville - town (une villa, un village, etc.)
- une zorille - zorilla
The (parentheses) indicate derivations which are also pronounced like an L.
*These words may be pronounced either way.