The Rules of Silent Letters in English

The Rules of Silent Letters in English

What is a silent letter?

A silent letter is a letter in words that are not pronounced but make a huge difference to the meaning and pronunciation of the whole word.

There are some rules that explain which letters are supposed to be silent, before and after certain letters (the only issue about this is that, like all English rules — there are usually some exceptions!).

Silent (B)

Rule 1: 

The letter B is usually not pronounced after M at the end of a word. 

Example: comb, bomb, thumb, climb, tomb, crumb, lamb


Rule 2: 

Letter B is usually not pronounced before the letter T.

Example: doubt, doubtful, subtle, debt.

Silent (C)

Rule 1: 

The letter C is usually not pronounced in the combination of SC

Example: scissors, ascent, fascinate, muscle.

Rule 2: 

Letter C is usually mute before the letters K and Q.

Example 1: lock, block, puck, acknowledge.

Example 2: aqua, acquit, acquiesce.

Silent (D)

Rule 1:

The letter D is silent when it appears before the letters N and G.

Example: Wednesday, cadge, pledge, grudge.

Rule 2: 

Letter D is not pronounced in the following common words:

Example: Wednesday, handsome, handkerchief, sandwich.

Silent (E)

Rule 1:

If the letter E comes at the ends of words, it is generally not pronounced.

Example: fore, table, before, write, give, hide.

Rule 2: 

If E occurs before the letter D in the second and third forms of the verbs, E may sometimes not to be pronounced.

Example: bored, fixed, smuggled, begged.

Silent (G)

Rule 1: 

The G letter is not pronounced when it comes before N in a word.

Example: design, foreign, sign, gnash, align.

Exceptions: magnet, igneous, signature, cognitive, signature.

Silent (GH)

Rule 1: 

GH is not pronounced when it comes after a vowel in a word.

Example: high, light, thought, through alight.

Rule 2: 

Exceptions:  GH is pronounced separately in compound words (As you can see the following words that exceptions are generally compound words).

Example: doghouse, bighead, foghorn.

Rule 3: 

Except the examples from rule 1, GH is sometimes pronounced like F, consider the words below:

Example: draught, cough, laugh, tough.

Silent (H)

Rule 1: 

The letter H is usually silent when it appears after W.

Example: why, what, when, weather, where.

Rule 2:

Sometimes the letter H is not silent after W. consider the words below.

Example: whose. whosoever, who, whoever, whole.

Rule 3: 

H is mute at the beginning of many words (remember to use the article "an" with unvoiced H)

Example: hour, honest, honor, heir.

Rule 4: 

Exceptions: Most of the words beginning with H are not silent (remember to use the article "a" with voiced H).

Example: history, hair, happiness.

Silent (K)


The letter K is always silent when it precedes the letter N in a word.

Example: know, knock, knife, knight, knowledge.

Silent (P)


The letter P is not pronounced at the beginning of many words using the combinations PS, PT, and PN.

Example: psalm, psephology, pterodactyl, pneumonia, pneumatic.

Silent (L)


The letter L is usually not pronounced after the vowels: A, O, and U

Example: calf, half, palm, would, should, could, folk, yolk.

Silent (N)


The letter N is not pronounced when it comes after M at the end of a word.

Example: column, damn, solemn, autumn.

Silent (PH)


PH is sometimes pronounced like F.

Example: Sophia, paragraph, elephant, telephone.

Silent (S)


The letter S is not pronounced before L in the following words:

Example: aisle, island, isle, islet.

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