Silent Letters in English
English can be one of the hardest languages to learn. So if you’ve decided to take on this job, kudos to you! With all the irregular verbs, similar words with different meanings (like affect and effect), and silent letters in English, things can get pretty hairy.
To try and alleviate some of the confusion, we’re talking all about silent letters in English this week on the Bespeaking blog.
Silent letters can be tricky when trying to write and spell words correctly, but it is easy when it comes to pronunciation- especially when they aren’t pronounced at all! There are a quite a few silent letters in the English language and this list should certainly help get you started with your pronunciation skills!
Silent letter in English: B
Your English skills will be the bomb if you get this pronunciation right! The b at the beginning of the word is voiced, while the b at the end of the word is silent. The word bomb in English, then, is pronounced “bom,” instead of like the German “Bombe”.
Silent letter in English: T
Where does a king live? In his castle, of course! However, the t in castle isn’t pronounced, so the word sounds like “cass-uhl.” Read on down the list to see who else (with silent letters!) might be at court in a castle…
Silent letter in English: P
This is one word that I constantly mispronounced when I was a kid. It looks like cup-board, and it would make sense to pronounce the p, as that’s where cups are kept. But for better or worse, cupboard is pronounced like “cub-bird.”
Silent letter in English: G
In the UK, these tiny little bugs are called midges, which I think sounds adorable, but in the States, they’re gnats. Gnats are those small little flies that swarm in the summer and somehow always manage to get in your eye. Gnat has a silent g at the beginning of the word, meaning it’s pronounced simply without it: “nat.”
Silent letter in English: K
One of my favorite scenes from Monty Python and the Holy Grail is when King Arthur encounters the Frenchman guarding the castle (there it is again!). He calls King Arthur and his men “silly knights,” but pronounces the k and all the other confusing letters that aren’t pronounced the way they look so it comes out like “ca-niggits.”
Don’t be like Monty Python! The k in knight is silent, so it sounds exactly like the word “night.”
Silent letter in English: N
If you’re solemn, you’re sad and subdued. You might not be as active as you usually are. But don’t be solemn over silent letters in English! The n at the end of solemn isn’t voiced, so it’s pronounced “sol-lem.”
Silent letter in English: O
A sophomore is a student who is in their second year of either high school (around 16 years old) or university (around 19 years old). It has it’s roots in Greek and means “wise fool.” When it comes to 16 and 19 year olds, they can definitely be “wise fools.”
Be wise and realize that the second o in sophomore isn’t pronounced, so that it sounds like “soff-more.”
Silent letter in English: W
I distinctly remember when I was really small seeing the word whole for the first time. I asked my mom, “Mom, what’s wa-hole?” Don’t be like me! The w in whole is silent, so it sounds exactly like the word “hole.”
Are there any words in your native language that have silent letters? Share them with us in the comments below!
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Erin Duffin lives in Berlin, is an English teacher, yoga instructor, and enjoys other words with useless, I mean, silent letters like debt, lamb, subtle, and pseudo!