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Pronunciations 03 - The Letter C
The word 'bicycle' contains two of the letter C, but they're both pronounced differently.

Pronunciations 03 - The Letter C

The English language is so full of contradictions that, even when we look at something as simple and straightforward as pronunciation with the letter ‘C’, we are pleasantly surprised!

We have found in our past learning that many of the components of English are guided by conventions and it takes considerable practise to master all of them.

‘C’ is the third letter of the alphabet and it is a consonant. In pronunciation the letter is associated with two principal sounds, namely - the ‘K’ sound (as in the words CAT, CLEAR or ATTIC) and the ‘S’ sound (as in the words PIECE, FANCY or CITY).

Principally, the ‘S’ sound is used when the letter C is followed by E, I or Y. For instance, CELERY, CIPHER and INFANCY are all words which follow this rule.

The ‘K’ sound is used when the letter C is followed by A, O, U or a consonant. For instance, CAMERA, COZY, CUTE and ACROSS are all words which follow this rule. Also, the ‘K’ sound is used when the word ends with the letter C. Here, some examples are the words TUNIC and COMIC.

It is possible that in words that have more than one C, both sounds are used - CYCLE is pronounced as if it were spelt SYCUL.

Another example of both sounds being used is when two Cs come together, as in words such as ACCENT, which is pronounced - AKSENT.

C is also associated with the letters K, H and S in words such as BACK, MATCH and SCIENCE where the K, H and S sounds dominate.

The quiz that follows helps to acclimatise you with the use of the letter C in words.
1.
Choose the group which uses neither the K sound nor the S sound for the letter C.
church, arch, porch
architect, crack, science
vociferous, cataclysm, back
coniferous, chord, chronic
This group of words has a separate 'CH' sound and the rule about C being followed by a consonant does not apply for such words. Note that in 'architecture' the CH is pronounced as K. 'Science' is a word where the S sound dominates. 'Crack' and 'back' are words in which the letter K dominates
2.
Choose the group of words which does not use the S sound for the letter C.
cyber, cyst, cyan
agency, clemency, latency
lyphocytes, policy, piracy
clear, credit, cringe
These words have the K sound. All the other options are with the S sound following the rule that words with C followed by Y have the S sound. Note that in 'clemency' the first C has the K sound but the second (as it is followed by a Y) has the S sound
3.
Choose the group of words which does not use the S sound for the letter C.
common, cover, counter
cease, cement, cede
cess, peace, space
receive, recede, recess
These words have the K sound. All the other options are with the S sound following the rule that words with C followed by E have the S sound. There are exceptions such as 'ocean' where the C is pronounced as SH as in SHALL
4.
Choose the group of words which does not use the K sound for the letter C.
attic, cynic, pathetic
associate, society, recipe
panic, tragic, magic
prolific, antibiotic, artistic
These words have the S sound. All the other options are with the K sound following the rule that words ending with C have the K sound. Note that in 'cynic' the first C has the S sound (as it is followed by a Y) but the second C has the K sound (as it is the last letter in the word)
5.
Choose the group of words which does not use the K sound for the letter C.
anecdote, clip, clear
acne, acquire, act
incident, medicine, atrocity
prospect, doctor, uncle
These words have the S sound. All the other options are with the K sound following the rule that words with C followed by a consonant have the K sound
6.
Choose the group of words which does not use the K sound for the letter C.
cube, culture, scull
faculty, abacus, acumen
cusp, focus, sculpture
veracity, cinema, placid
These words have the S sound. All the other options are with the K sound following the rule that words with C followed by U have the K sound
7.
Choose the group of words which does not use the K sound for the letter C.
covert, cower, cope
alcove, alcohol, acorn
cellar, celestial, certify
abscond, concord, comrade
These words have the S sound. All the other options are with the K sound following the rule that words with C followed by O have the K sound
8.
Choose the group of words which does not use the S sound for the letter C.
cite, civil, city
cute, cut, custom
citation, decide, precise
rancid, specimen, velocity
These words have the K sound. All the other options are with the S sound following the rule that words with C followed by I have the S sound. There are exceptions such as 'artificial' and 'precious' and words similar to them where the C is pronounced as SH as in SHALL
9.
Choose the group of words which does not use the K sound for the letter C.
capable, catamaran, cavort
despicable, decade, abdicate
advocate, scanty, upscale
hesitancy, idiocy, cylinder
These words have the S sound. All the other options are with the K sound following the rule that words with C followed by A have the K sound
10.
Choose the group of words which does not use both the K sound and the S sound for the letter C.
cycle, concede, conceive
accede, capacity, cynic
circuit, accent, success
catacomb, cryptic, calculus
These words have only the K sound. The other options have both K and S sounds
Author:  V T Narendra

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