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Pronunciations 01 - Silent Letters
The word 'autumn' contains a silent letter N.

Pronunciations 01 - Silent Letters

There are 26 letters in the English alphabet: 21 consonants and 5 vowels. A vowel has certain characteristics which are different from those of a consonant. Two main differences are that generally no word can be spelt without a vowel (or a consonant representing a vowel sound) in it. Since a vowel has to be present in a word it implies that pronunciation will also carry the sounds of a vowel. The other difference is that the ways of producing a vowel sound are distinct from the ways of producing a consonant sound.

In spellings, vowels and consonants are mixed up and there are general guidelines as to how words are pronounced. Both spellings and pronunciations are legacies of the past and carry a large number of inconsistencies that are here to stay. Many examples are available that depict these inconsistencies. Here are just a few:

ENOUGH is a word that is pronounced much differently than the spelling seems to suggest. If the spelling was phonetic ENOUGH would be spelt ENUFF.

THROUGH is a word that you would think should have a pronunciation similar to that of ENOUGH. Unfortunately, it does not! A phonetic spelling of THROUGH would be THREW, or THROO.

ISLAND is a word that does not make use of the letter ’S’ in its pronunciation. Phonetically it would be spelt I-LAND.

KNOCK does not make use of the first letter ‘K’and is pronounced NOK.

AUTUMN does not make use of the letter ‘N’ and is pronounced ORTUM.

CASTLE does not make use of the letter ‘T’, sounding more like CASUL.

Words like these which have letters in their spelling which are not made use of in their pronunciation are called 'words with silent letters'. There are no specific rules that govern the use of such letters in words. However, there are some conventions that are followed. Take this quiz and see how much you know about silent letters.
1.
Choose the group of words that has a silent D from the four options.
handkerchief, Wednesday, sandwich, handsome
daydream, despise, deplore, develop
paddle, pudding, doodle, cradle
rode, said, parade, abandon
These are the common words in which D is silent. Note that in 'Wednesday', the second D is pronounced
2.
Choose the group in which all the words have a silent C from the four options.
carrot, crate, create
receptacle, calculus, cadaver
disciple, fascinate, isosceles
despicable, respectable, delectable
The letter C has either the S or K sound. When used with S, the S sound dominates. Generally, C is silent when it comes after S at the beginning of the word followed by either an I or an E but you do find words (such as 'disciple', 'fascinate' and 'isosceles') in which a silent C is used in the middle of the word
3.
Choose the group in which one of the words contains two silent letters.
knife, damn, debris
island, castle, two
write, calf, coup
ballet, psalm, talk,
All the words except 'psalm' have one silent letter. In 'psalm', P and L are silent
4.
Choose the group of words that has a silent B from the four options.
ramble, gamble, stumble
amber, camber, chamber
slumber, lumber, limber
limb, crumb, comb
Generally B is silent when used at the end of the word just after M. In the other three options MB is in the middle of the word so the B sound is used
5.
Choose the group of words that has a silent B from the four options.
subtle, doubt, debt
obtain, obstruct, obverse
subject, submit, submerge
object, obverse, obsess
Generally B is silent when followed by T. But there are exceptions such as 'obtain'
6.
Choose the group of words that has a silent D from the four options.
girdle, candle, ladle, handle
dodge, godly, faded, grading
pledge, sledge, grudge, hedge
order, roadway, pedal, medal
Generally, the D sound takes a back seat when used in combination with G. Note that in 'dodge', though the first D is pronounced the second is not
7.
Choose the group in which all the words have a silent C from the four options.
scrunch, scream, scratch
scenic, scenario, science
secrete, secret, cess
cede, biscuit, circuit
The letter C can have either the S or the K sound. When used with S, the S sound dominates. Generally, C is silent when it comes after S at the beginning of the word followed by either an I or an E
8.
Choose the group of words that has a silent H from the four options.
head, heat
vehicle, exhausted
horse, uphill
pothole, doghouse
H is occasionally silent when it appears between two vowels and when it is preceded by EX
9.
Choose the group of words that has a silent C from the four options.
rack, car, decorate
actor, factor, lactose
caravan, cone, clip
czar, yacht, recede
The letter C has the S and K sound. In CZAR, the Z sound dominates, in YACHT, the CH sound is silent and in RECEDE, the C is pronounced as an S
10.
Choose the group in which one of the words does not have any silent letters.
hymn, valves, halves
doubting, whistle, gnaw
psychic, wrench, folk
yacht, gnat, could
All the words except 'valves' have silent letters. Note that in 'halves' the L is silent whereas in 'valves' the L is pronounced
Author:  V T Narendra

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