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Un : a, Le: the (masculine). Normally you would say "le homme". But there's a rule, you can't have 2 wovels following each other, so you make an ellipse, the same than in English when you say "I'm" instead of "I am" (except that these 2 forms are correct). So, instead of "le homme" (not correct because of the rule), you say "l'homme". The "e" has been replaced by '.
It sounds as if the "n" in "un" is only pronounced when the next word (homme) is also spoken, otherwise the "n" is silent.
Comments or explanation?
In French, a "liaison" is when a normally silent consonant at the end of a word is pronounced at the beginning of the word that follows it. Usually, liaisons are required between two words when the first one ends with a consonant (ex: "es") and the second one starts with a vowel (ex: "un"). They are also required when the second word starts with a "mute H" (ex: "honnête" which means "honest"). Cautious: consonants in liaisons sometimes change pronunciation. For example, an S is pronounced like a Z when it is in a liaison.
- ex: "Tu es un garçon" means "You are a boy", and is pronounced like "Tu es-Z-un garçon"
- ex: "Tu es honnête" means "You are honest", and is pronounced like "Tu es-Z-honnête"
The pronunciation (or not) of liaisons follows specific rules. Liaisons are divided into three categories:
There are many cases, but here are a few examples: Nominal group: "un homme" (pronounced "un-N-homme"), "les amis" (pronounced "les-Z-amis") Verbal group: "vous avez" (pronounced "vous-Z-avez"), "ils ont" (pronounced "ils-Z-ont") etc.
There are many cases, but here are a few examples: After a singular noun: "un garçon intéressant" (you should not say "un garçon-N-intéressant") After "et" (and): "un homme et une femme" (you should not say "un homme et-T-une femme") Before a "h aspiré": "les haricots" (you should not say "les-Z-haricots").
There are many cases, but in this particular case, a case of optional liaison is after verbs that are not followed by a pronoun: "L'enfant prend un sucre". You can either pronounce: "L'enfant prend un sucre" or "... prend-T-un sucre".
"Un" is an masculine indefinite article that is used before masculine nouns. Ex: "Un homme"
"Une" is an feminine indefinite article that is used before feminine nouns. Ex: "Une femme"