Lesson Four: Words Are Not Always Pronounced The Way They Are Spelt

The main reasons why speaking English is so hard

This special pronunciation section will explain to you why English is hard to speak correctly and give you some help on improving your pronunciation. These are the main reasons why English is so hard. There is a lesson for each one.

Note that the pronunciation examples are in American English accent. In the last lesson you will find American and British English examples.

These lessons are sponsored by: EyeSpeak English

In English it can often be very confusing when you see a word written down to know how to say it. This section has some simple rules and examples that will greatly improve your pronunciation and save you much time in learning English pronunciation.

One Or Two Syllables At The End Of A Word?

There are many words in English where it is not clear whether there is an extra syllable at the end. For example, is 'liked' all one syllable, or two? How about 'added'?

Now you most likely know these words, however how do you pronounce a word you have not seen before? Here are some rules that will help you in this situation.

'ed' At The End Of A Word

Most of the time, 'ed' at the end of a word does not mean there is a separate syllable. For exampled 'liked' is a one syllable word.

Here are some examples of words that follow this rule:
liked   disturbed   performed   exposed

However there are some common exceptions, when the following letters come before 'ed'
d e i o t u

For example words that end with 'ded', 'eed', 'ied' all have two syllables at the end.

Here are some words that break this rule:
ad ded   at ten ded   col lec ted   a pplied

These are two syllable words because d/e/i/o/t/u come before the 'ed'

'e' At The End Of A Word

Rules:

  1. It is a separate syllable when the following letters come before 'e'
    a e i o
  2. It is a not a separate syllable when the following letters come before 'e'
    b c d f g h k n p u z

Examples

Rule 1:a gree   re fe ree   mo vie

Rule 2:tube   type   bone

Special Letters And Letter Combinations

Here are some letters and letter combinations that can sometimes be difficult. Some common rules are shown to help you.

How To Pronounce 'c'

'c' is a difficult letter, because sometimes it is pronounced 'hard' like a 'k' in 'cake' and other times it is 'soft' like a 's' in 'nice'

Rules:

  1. If 'c' is before 'a', 'o' or 'u' then it is often said like a 'k'

    Examples:

    'academy'   'balcony'   and 'acute'   all have the 'c' pronounced like a 'k'

  2. If it is before and 'e' or an 'i' it is often said like an 's'

    Examples:

    'adjacent'   and 'acid'   have the 'c' pronounced like an 's'

How To Pronounce 'g'

The letter 'g' is most often pronounced like in 'go', however sometimes it can be pronounced as a 'j' sound, like the 'j' sound in 'just'

Rule: It is a 'j' sound when it is followed by 'e: 'i' or 'y'

Examples: 'age'   'cage'   'agile'   and 'strategy'   all have 'j' sound

Exceptions: Begin   giddy   and foggy . These have the 'g' sound

The combination 'wh'

This is usually pronounced as a 'w' sound like in 'white'. However there are some exceptions, where it is pronounced like an 'h' sound:

Exceptions: Who   whoever   whole   who'll   wholly   whom   who's   whose

The combination 'gh'

This is an unusual combination because when it is in the middle of the word, it has no sound at all!

Example: bright is pronounced 'br ii t'

The vowel before 'gh' is often long.

When it is at the beginning of a word, it is pronounced as 'g'

Examples: ghost   ghastly

At the end of the word, it can sometimes be pronounced 'f'

Examples: Cough   enough   laugh   rough   tough