English Language Improvement: Learning Silent Words

  • Team MasterPrep
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  • Aug 16, 2022 11:51 AM

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In English pronunciation, a silent letter—a term used informally—is a letter or letter combination of the alphabet that is usually not pronounced in a word. Examples include the ‘b’ in subtle, the ‘c’ in scissors, the ‘g’ in design, the -‘t’ in listen, and the ‘gh’ in thought. One of the main tasks while learning and speaking English is silent letters. It’s one main hurdle when it comes to pronunciation, spellings or intonation which can jeopardize your speaking tasks during IELTS.

In English pronunciation, a silent letter—a term used informally—is a letter or letter combination of the alphabet that is usually not pronounced in a word. Examples include the ‘b’ in subtle, the ‘c’ in scissors, the ‘g’ in design, the -‘t’ in listen, and the ‘gh’ in thought. One of the main tasks while learning and speaking English is silent letters. It’s one main hurdle when it comes to pronunciation, spelling or intonation which can jeopardize your speaking tasks during IELTS.

Silent letters make a huge difference in the way we write and pronounce words. There are many different rules that can help you better understand these silent pieces of vocabulary, so read below!

Rules for Silent Letters and Words:


 

Silent Letters Rules Explanation
B The letter B is usually not pronounced after M at the end of a word. For example comb, bomb, thumb, and climb, tomb, crumb, and lamb.  It is usually not pronounced before the letter T. For example doubt, doubtful, subtle, debt. 
C The letter C is usually not pronounced in the combination of SC. For example, scissors, ascent, fascinate, muscle. C is usually mute before the letters K and Q. For example, aqua, acquit, acquiesce.
D The letter D is silent when it appears before the letters N and G. For example, Wednesday, cadge, pledge, grudge.  D is not pronounced in the following Common words. For example, Wednesday, handsome, handkerchief, sandwich
E If the letter E comes at the ends of words, it is generally not pronounced.  For example, fore, table, before, write, give, hide.  If E occurs before the letter D in the second and third forms of the verbs, E may sometimes not be pronounced. For example, bored, fixed, smuggled, and begged.
G The G letter is not pronounced when it comes before N in a word. For example Design, foreign, sign, gnash, and align. Exceptions- magnet, igneous, cognitive, signature.  
GH GH is not pronounced when it comes after a vowel in a word. For example, high, light, thought, through alight. Exceptions: GH is pronounced separately in compound words. Except for examples from Rule 1, GH is sometimes pronounced like F, consider the words like draught, cough, laugh, tough.
H The letter H is usually silent when it appears after W. For example Why, what, when, weather, where. Sometimes the letter H is not silent after W, consider the words below. For example whose, whosoever, who, whoever, whole. H is mute at the beginning of many words (remember to use the article “an” with unvoiced H). For example, hour, honest, honor, heir.  Exceptions: Most of the words beginning with H are not silent (remember to use the article “a” with voiced H) For example history, history, hair, happy.
K The letter K is always silent when it precedes the letter N in a word. For example, know, knock, knife, knight, knowledge.  
L The letter L is usually not pronounced after the vowels: A, O, and U. For example, calf, half, palm, would, should, could, folk, yolk.  
N The letter N is not pronounced when it comes after M at the end of a word. For example, column, damn, solemn, autumn.  
P The letter P is not pronounced at the beginning of many words using the combinations PS, PT, and PN. For example, psalm psephology, pterodactyl, and pneumonia, pneumatic.  
PH PH is sometimes pronounced like F. For example, paragraph, elephant, telephone.  
S The letter S is not pronounced before L in the following words, aisle, island, isle, and islet.  
T 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.  
U The letter U is not pronounced when it comes after G and before a vowel in a word. For example, guide, guest, guard, guest, guano.  
W The letter W is not pronounced at the beginning of a word when it is before the letter R. For example Write, wrest, wrong, wrack, wrap. W is silent in the following words, who, whose, whole, whom, whose, whoever, answer, sword, two.

 

List of Silent Letters and Words

 

Letters  Words 
Silent B aplomb
bomb
climb
comb
coulomb
crumb
doubt
dumb
jamb
lamb
limb
numb
plumb
subtle
succumb
thumb
tomb
womb
Silent C abscess
ascent
ascent
conscience
conscious
crescent
descend
descent
disciple
evanesce
fascinate
fluorescent
muscle
obscene
resuscitate
scenario
science
scene
scissors
Silent D bridge
edge
handkerchief
handsome
handful
grandson
ledger
sandwich
Wednesday
Silent E hate
name
breathe
Silent K knack
knave
knead
knee
kneel
knell
knew
knickers
knife
knight
knit
knob
knock
knoll
knot
know
knowledge
knuckle
Silent L would
should
calf
half
salmon
talk
yolk
Silent P psychology
pneumonia
pseudo
psychiatrist
psychiatry
psychotherapy
psychotic
receipt
Silent U baguette
biscuit
build
building
built
circuit
disguise
guess
guest
guide
guild
guilt
guilty
guise
guitar
rogue
silhouette
Silent N autumn
column
condemn
damn
hymn
solemn
Silent T apostle
bristle
bustle
castle
fast
hustle
listen
moisten
often
Silent M mnemonic

 

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