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Silent Letters in English

Learning English as a second language is not an easy task. For most of the people its the pronunciation issue that causes most of the problems. People face very common pronunciation issues when learning English as a second language. This can be one of the reasons they can’t comprehend when listening to native speakers, because they are not familiar with accurate pronunciation of the words. One prominent problem can be silent letters in English. In this lesson we will talk about silent letters in English to help you pronounce the words correctly.

Silent Letters in English
Silent Letters in English

What is a silent letter?
A silent letter is the letter in words that are not pronounced but make a huge difference to the meaning and pronunciation of the whole word.
Looking back to the history of the language, these letters were pronounced initially, and then they became silent. There are a lot of silent letters in English, it’s said that around 60 % of words in English have silent letters. This makes spelling and pronunciation more difficult for learners. Below we will look at some silent letter rules that will help you recognize when certain letters are to be silent.

Silent Letters in English

There are some rules that explain which letters are supposed to be silent, before and after certain letters (the only issue about this is that, like all English rules – there are usually some exceptions!). once you start practicing these rules and  using with new vocabulary that you learn, it will become easier to remember silent letters in English. 

Silent B
Rule 1: The letter B is usually not pronounced after M at the end of a word.
• Comb, bomb, thumb, climb, tomb, crumb, lamb

Rule 2: B is usually not pronounced before the letter T.
• Doubt, doubtful, subtle, debt.

Silent C
Rule 1: The letter C is usually not pronounced in the combination of SC.
• Scissors, ascent, fascinate, muscle.

Rule 2: C is usually mute before the letters K and Q.
• Lock, block, puck, acknowledge.
• Aqua, Acquit, Acquiesce.

Silent D
Rule 1: The letter D is silent when it appears before the letters N and G.
• Wednesday, cadge, Pledge, grudge.

Rule 2: D is not pronounced in the following Common words:
• Wednesday, handsome, handkerchief, sandwich.

Silent E
Rule 1: If the letter E comes at the ends of words, it is generally not pronounced.
• Fore, table, before, write, give, hide.

Rule 2: If E occurs before the letter D in the second and third form of the verbs, E may sometimes not to be pronounced.
• Bored, fixed, smuggled, begged.

Silent G
Rule 1: The G letter is not pronounced when it comes before N in a word.
• Design, foreign, sign, gnash, align.
Exceptions: Magnet, igneous, cognitive, signature

Silent GH
Rule 1: GH is not pronounced when it comes after a vowel in a word.
• High, light, thought, through alight.

Rules 2: Exceptions: GH is pronounced separately in compound words (As you can see in the following words that exceptions are generally compound words).
• Doghouse, bighead, foghorn.

Rule 3: Except examples from rule 1, GH is sometimes pronounced like F, consider the words below.
• Draught, cough, laugh, tough.

Silent H
Rule 1: The letter H is usually silent when it appears after W.
• Why, what, when, weather, where.

Rule 2: Sometimes the letter H is not silent after W, consider the words below.
• Whose, whosoever, who, whoever, whole.

Rule 3: H is mute at the beginning of many words (remember to use the article “an” with unvoiced H).
• Hour, honest, honour, heir.

Rule 4: Exceptions: Most of the words beginning with H are not silent (remember to use the article “a” with voiced H)
• History, Historical, Hair, Happy.

Silent K
Rule: The letter K is always silent when it precedes the letter N in a word.
• Know, knock, knife, knight, knowledge.

Silent L
Rule: The letter L is usually not pronounced after the vowels: A, O and U.
• Calf, half, palm, would, should, could, folk, yolk.

Silent N
Rule: The letter N is not pronounced when it comes after M at the end of a word.
• Column, damn, solemn, autumn.

Silent P
Rule: The letter P is not pronounced at the he beginning of many words using the combinations PS, PT and PN.
• Psalm, psephology, pterodactyl, pneumonia, pneumatic.

Silent PH
Rule: PH is sometimes pronounced like F.
• Sophia, paragraph, elephant, telephone.

Silent S
Rule: The letter S is not pronounced before L in the following words:
• Aisle, island, isle, islet.

Silent T 
Rule: The letter T is not pronounced  in the following common English words: 
• Castle, Christmas, fasten, listen, often, beret, Chevrolet, whistle, thistle, bustle, hasten, soften, rapport, gourmet, ballet. (Please click here to know how to pronounce T in English).

Silent U
Rule: The letter U is not pronounced when it comes after G and before a vowel in a word.
• Guide, guest, guard, guess, guano.

Silent W
Rule 1: The letter W is not pronounced at the beginning of a word when it is before the letter R.
• Write, wrest, wrong, wrack, wrap.

Rule 2: W is silent in the following words:
• Who, whose, whole, whom, whole, whoever, answer, sword, two.

IMPORTANT: Pronunciation matters a lot. Despite, having good grammar accuracy and vocabulary power if your pronunciation is imprecise or wrong your speaking will be ineffective. Below I have listed the rules for common miss pronounced words or letters that will help you to avoid common errors in pronunciation. Just click on the links.  

What are Reductions in English Language?
Pronunciation of Reductions 
Sounds of the Plural –S in English
Sounds of the Plural –S in English
Pronunciation of ED Endings in Regular Verbs
Pronunciation of ED Endings 

 

 

 

 

 

Silent T & D American Pronunciation
Silent T & D American Pronunciation
The American T Sound
The American T Sound
American pronunciation of TH
American pronunciation of TH

 

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12 comments

Shais May 13, 2016 at 10:15 am

Welcome back with great article.

Reply
Jalali October 5, 2016 at 10:24 pm

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Jalali October 5, 2016 at 10:23 pm

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Aadi December 20, 2016 at 8:32 pm

Thanks for the silent letters rules and more useful articles for English learners.

Reply
Jalali December 20, 2016 at 8:36 pm

Welcome dear Aadi.

Reply
Simplejust 4U March 30, 2017 at 12:44 am

Interesting article, that’s what esl need to beware about, pronunciation is very important for having a good and clear accent , pronunciation is the right way to the fluency. ..

Reply
Sonam pandey February 13, 2018 at 1:54 am

Good explanation…thanks

Reply
Monique April 18, 2019 at 10:44 am

While they can be in the vocabulary of English-speaking people, some words listed as English words are actually French words (e.g. ballet, rapport). I’m not an expert, but I do know that non-English words are subject to a different set of rules. For example, no 2+ letter English word ever ends in ‘i’ – people can say, “What about ‘sushi’?”, but that isn’t an English word.

Reply
techbland May 6, 2019 at 3:44 pm

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Reply

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