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Sshhh! Today we’re going over silent letters in English and some of the rules for them. And YES — we even found a word where the R is silent. Stick with us, you’re going to learn a lot about correct English pronunciation.
We’re starting with I. Why? Because this is the second video in a two-part series. If you didn’t know that, you must have missed last week’s video. Get to it here or in the video description below.
Okay. The letter I: I can think of only one word where it’s silent, but it’s a very common word and I’ve definitely heard lots of non-native speakers mispronounce this word. It’s business. No extra sound between Z and N. Business. Just two syllables.
The letter J. I can’t think of any examples where the letter J si silent. Well done, J! You’re always pronounced!
I definitely think you already know the rule: K before N is silent. Knife, knit, knock, knee, know. This rule doesn’t apply if there is a syllable break in a compound word, for example, “breakneck”. Have you heard this term? It’s used with ‘speed’ and it means extremely fast. The horse ran at a breakneck speed. It’s not bray-neck. It’s not silent. Breakneck.
We have quite a few examples of a silent L. Should, would, could. No L sound there. Walk talk, stalk, yolk, half, calf, and, like we said in last week’s video, salmon. So what’s the rule here? No, there isn’t really one. Just know these words. I’ve heard the rule L is silent after A, O, or U, but there are just too many exceptions to that rule for it to make sense. Bolt, bald, salt, cold, solve, pulp, bulb, rule, for example.
This letter is silent only at the beginning of a word that begins with MN, and these words are very uncommon. The most common is “mnemonic”, mnemonic. notice I am not starting that with an N sound, not M, M is silent.
mnemonic, mnemonic. This means something used to help you remember something. You’ll hear it in the phrase ‘mnemonic device’. For example, when I was a kid taking piano lessons, I used the phrase ‘every good boy does fine’ to learn the notes on the staff. E, G, B, D, F. A mnemonic device.
This letter is silent after M at the end of a word like in damn, hymn, column, autumn, solemn. But it’s not always silent after M in other places in a word, like in the word alumni or chimney, where it is pronounced.
The letter O. It’s silent in sophomore. Now, we have three O’s there, and only one is silent. It’s the middle one. This is just a two-syllable word. Soph-more. The middle O is silent. Sophomore. I can’t think of any more words with a silent O.
The letter P can be silent when it’s followed by S at the beginning of the word. Like in the words psalm, pseudo, and psychic. It’s also silent in PN at the beginning of a word, like pneumonia. It’s also silent in the common word receipt, and in raspberry, coup, and corps.
The letter Q. Another letter that’s never silent. Well done Q! Way to stick up for yourself!
The letter R. I’ve heard people say this is never silent in American English, and maybe I’ve even said that myself. But I did find a word, and the R is silent probably because we use the British pronunciation. It’s Worcester. It’s the name of a town in Massachusetts, it’s also in the name of an amazing, tasty sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and it has a silent R. Worcester.
The letter S. You’ve probably noticed this is silent in the word ‘island’, ‘aisle’, and ‘debris’.
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The letter T. Now here we get into some words that do not have a T sound, and then some words that, in the dictionary, do have a T sound, but the habit of Americans is to pronounce them without a T sound. We’ll go over the words with officially no T sound, according to the dictionary, first. With these words, the T is silent. Words that end in: STEN, FTEN, or STLE.
STEN: fasten, listen, moisten, glisten. No T. There is an exception and it’s the word tungsten. There we do say the T, tungsten, tttt. It’s one of the elements on the periodic table of elements.
thistle, whistle, wrestle, bustle, castle. No T.
Often and soften. Though, I should say, saying the T in ‘often’ is now accepted, it’s been done so many times, you’ll see both of those pronunciations in the dictionary.
Often or often.
The T is also silent in mortgage, and at the end of some words: rapport, ricochet, gourmet, ballet. beret, Chevrolet.
Now let’s talk about when the T is unofficially silent. This is, if you looked these words up in the dictionary, they would probably still show a T sound, but that’s not the habit of most Americans. It’s really common for Americans to drop the T between two other consonant sounds, and make it silent. For example, Christmas, and exactly. It’s also quite common to make it silent after an N, like ‘internet’ or ‘center’ or ‘international’ or ‘wanted’. It’s also really common to make a T silent when it’s part of an ending consonant cluster, and the next word begins with a consonant.
Let’s take an example, the word ‘just’. It ends in the S-T cluster. When that word is followed by a word that begins with a consonant, it’s very common for Americans to drop that T. Just thought, just want, just hope, just need. For example. No T sound.
The letter U. This is often silent after G, it’s a clue how to pronounce the G rather than a letter that is itself pronounced. Look at all these words: guide, guitar, guess, tongue, baguette, colleague.
The Letter V. Again, another sound in American English that’s never silent. Well done V. You did it.
W is silent in some common words: two, who, answer, whole, and sword. It’s also silent at the beginning of a word with R: write, wrong, wreck, wrist, wreath, wrinkle, wrestle. Ooo, that one has a silent T too. Wrestle.
X: The X is silent in the word ‘faux’. This words means ‘fake’. You could use it with ‘fur’, this is a faux fur jacket. It’s also common in the phrase ‘faux pas’, which is an embarrassing mistake in a social situation. For example, he showed up to the party in jeans. It was a dressy event, so it was a faux pas.
The Letter Y. Wow. Again, here we are almost at the end of the alphabet and we’ve found another letter that’s never silent! Yay Y! Good job.
Silent in ‘rendezvous’. Now, if you’re French, and you’re hearing me say this word, and all the words here today that we have borrowed from French, and you think, this woman has horrible pronunciation, please know that I totally agree with you. I have horrible French pronunciation. But when a language adopts words from another language, they do their own thing with it. And this is what we’ve done. We’ve Americanized the pronunciation somewhat but we did keep that silent Z. Rendezvous.
Wow, we made it A thru Z. So many cases of silent letters in English! What words did you learn today that have silent letters that you didn’t know before, let me know in the comments below. The next video to watch is this one, which is one that YouTube has chosen especially for you. I don’t even know what they’re choosing, but I trust them, do continue your learning with that video.
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