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Pronunciation in English: Silent Letters

We all know that the pronunciation is tricky in English, including many silent letters. Keep reading for some common silent letters in English. However, please note that these are just some examples. There are many more silent letters in the English language.

NOTE: The letters below are silent in the following cases, but they are often pronounced in other instances.

1. Silent “w”

The letter “w” is silent in certain words.

  • answer, wrong, write, sword, whole, wrap, wrinkle, wrestle

2. Silent “b”

“mb” combination

The letter “b” is silent when it comes after “m”, as part of the same syllable.

  • dumb, thumb, crumb, numb, plumber

Be aware that there are certain words in which the “b” sound is pronounced after “m”, as part of separate syllables.

  • crum-ble, thim-ble, nim-ble

“bt” combination

“B” is also sometimes silent, when followed by the letter “t”, in words as part of the same syllable.

  • doubt, debt, subtle

However, there are other words where “b” is pronounced before “t”, when they are part of separate syllables.

  • ob-tain, sub-tract, ob-tuse, sub-title

3. Silent “h”

H” is silent in the following words:

  • honest, hour, honour, heir

Remember that “h” is pronounced in other common words, including:

  • house, how, have, hot, etc.

4. Silent “i”

In certain words that end in “ain”, the letter “i” is silent.

  • mountain — pronounced as “mountin”

  • fountain — pronounced as “fountin”

However, this rule does not apply to other words with the same “ain” endings.

The final “i” is pronounced in the following words:

  • maintain, retain, sustain, remain

5. Silent “k”

Words that start with the “kn” combination, have a silent “k”.

  • know, knee, knot, knight

6. Silent “g”

There is a silent “g” when “gn” are at the beginning of a word.

  • gnome, gnat, gnaw, gnarl

7. Silent “p”

Words that start with “ps” have a silent “p”.

  • psychology, psalm, psyche, psoriasis

Silent letters are difficult in English and often it’s a case of remembering which letters are silent in which words. When you listen to English in songs, movies, conversation, etc. pay attention to the silent letters, as well as the ones that are pronounced.

I hope you enjoyed reading this post.

I’m Mary, a British online English language tutor for adult learners.

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