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In American English, there are a few silent letters. Of course, there are many sound reductions and words borrowed from other languages that have silent letters. Here we are learning the spellings in which one or more letters are always or very often silent.
|KN||pronounce N only — the K is silent||knife, knight, knit||KN will be the first letters–there are only a few of these words|
|GN||pronounce N — the G is silent||sign, resign, design, consign||GN will be final letters — only a few words, most include “sign|
|MB||pronounce M only — the B is silent||thumb, comb, climb, limb, lamb, plumber||MB are final letters or nearly final–there are only a few of these|
|GH||silent or the letter F||light, sight, height, weight, laugh, cough, rough, tough||about 50% silent, 50% F, most of the words with silent GH have a final T, but not all|
|WH*||pronounce W — H is silent||what, where, when, while, which||the exceptions are who and whom — in these words we pronounce H and not W|
|vowel_e||an E at the end of a short word is usually silent||lane, site, home, rule, here, toe||the rule is: an E at the end makes the vowel sound long–these silent E’s indicate that the previous vowel has a long sound|
* Unfortunately, some dictionaries still show the old pronunciation HW–basically a light breath before W.
However, in popular media and in classrooms, people speak only the W.
Other Letters with H
Unlike WH, most of the time, consonant combinations with H have their own, unique sounds: SH, CH, PH, and TH as in ship, chat, phone and then respectively. See lessons 3-5 for SH, CH and TH. PH sounds exactly like F as in phone, geography and graph.
Vowel Sound Combinations
Many long vowel spellings have a silent vowel. Here is the simple rule:
When 2 vowels go walking, the first one does the talking.
Examples are oa, ow, oe, ai, ay, ei, ie and ue as in boat, slow, rain, pay, heat, lie and blue.
Most of the above spellings are dependable. However, EA and IE have multiple sounds. Also, this rule only works in simple words. In longer words, the vowels in prefixes or suffixes may not be dropped as in coworkeror coexist.
See the lessons on vowel sounds to study each letter in detail.
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