Silent sounds in English

One difficult aspect of English pronunciation is that you don’t always say every letter in a word. For example, you don’t pronounce the ‘l’ in “walk” or the ‘gh’ in “thought”.

English words aren’t always pronounced as they’re written. Sometimes the pronunciation of a word changes over the years, but the spelling remains the same. Sometimes an English word comes from another language where the letter is pronounced in that language (but not in English).

Here are some examples of silent letters in words. The silent letter is in bold and the pronunciation is given afterwards.

Silent b

This is often at the end of a word

bomb (pronounced /bom/)
dumb (pronounced /dum/)
climb (pronounced /claym/)
comb (pronounced /coam/)
limb (pronounced /lim/)
thumb (pronounced /thum/)

But also sometimes in the middle of a word

doubt (/dowt/)
debt (/det/)
subtle (/suttel/)

Silent c

scene (/seen/)
science (/sience/)
fascinate (/fasinate/)
muscle (/mussel/)
ascend (/assend/)
descent (/dissent/)
scissors (/sizzors/)

Silent d

Wednesday (/wenzday/)

Silent e

evening (/eav-ning/)
interesting (/intresting/)
vegetable (/vegtabul/)

Also at end of words where there is a long vowel: vowel + consonant + final silent e, such as late (/leyt/), site and able /eybul).

Silent g

sign (/sine/)
design (/dezine/)
resign (/rezine/)
foreign (/forrin/)
reign (/rain/)

Silent gh

high (/hi/)
higher (/hi-ur/)
right (/rite/)
might (/mite/)
flight (/flite/)
thigh (th – eye)
sigh (s – eye)

taught (/tort//)
thought (/thort//)
ought (/ort/)
bought (/bort/)
brought (/brort/)

enough (/enuf/)
tough (/tuff/)

though (/tho/)
although (/altho/)

weigh (/way/)
weight (/wayt/)
straight (/strayt/)

Silent h

This can come at the beginning of a word:

honest (/onest/)
hour (/our/)
honour (/onour/)

Often after a c

ache (/eyk/)
mechanic (/mekanik/)
architect (/arkitect/)
chemistry (/kemistry/)
echo (/ekko/)
stomach (/stomak/)
school (/skule/)
schizophrenia (/skizofrenia/)

Often after ‘w’

why (/wy/)
where (/wear/)
when (/wen/)
what (/wot/)
which (/witch/)
whisper (/wisper/)
whistle (/wissul/)
white (/wite/)
while (/wile/)
whereas (/wearas/)

Silent k

These come at the beginning of a word, before ‘n’

know (/no/)
knew (/new/)
knowledge (/nolidge/)
knee (/nee/)
knock (/nok/)
knife (/nife/)

Silent l

calf (/carf/)
half (/harf/)

calm (/carm/)
balm (/brm/)
salmon (/samon/)

would (/wood/)
could (/cood/)
should (/shood/)

walk (/wawk/)
talk (/tawk/)

Silent n

autumn (/ortum/)
column (/colum/)

Silent p

These often come at the beginning of words:



Silent s

island (/i-land/)
isle (/iyull/)

Silent t

listen (/lissen/)
fasten (/fassen/)
castle (/cassul/)
hustle (/hussul/)
whistle (/wissul/)

Silent u

biscuit (/biskit/)
build (/bild/)
guess (/gess/)
guest (/gest/)
guide (/guy-d/ – rhymes with “I’d”)
guitar (/gitar/)

Silent w

These can come at the end of a word

window (/windo/)
widow (/widdo/)
yellow (/yello/)
below (/bilo/)

Also at the beginning of the word

who (/hoo)
write (/rite/)
wrist (/rist/)
wrong (/rong/)
wrap (/rap/)

answer (/anser/)
sword (/sord/)

Want more help?

Check out our quick pronunciation exercise on the silent “w” in words.