Aquilega vulgaris
The Garden Columbine blooms in many colours in spring and early summer.

Sounds of C

A hard sound, like K, when c comes before a, o, u, and consonants.

coffee, cupcake, school

A soft sound, like S, when c comes before i, e, y.

circle, celery, cyanide, recipe, fascinate

 A hiss sound, like sh, when —ci— (or sometimes —ce—) comes before a vowel, inside a word. [Infrequent.]

conscience, social

Exceptions:

These words do not have the sh hiss:

science; society

Silent Cs

Some words that derive from Middle English are pronounced the same as they always were, but the spelling was changed to add a c, similar to French or Latin, which were fashionable languages at the time.

indict, indictment, indictable offence

Other words were imported into English from another language.

yacht [Dutch], Tucson [Papago Indian]

 See also, Letter combinations (digraphs), below, for words containing sc.

scientist

Double Cs

English words with double consonants are inconsistent, so there is no reliable rule.

Usually, a double C serves to signal that the preceding vowel is short rather than long.

accord, accuse, occupy

Rather than a double C or a double K, a CK is commonly used. The hard C sound is preserved or emphasized, even when, with the following vowel (I, E, or Y), you would expect a soft C sound.

chicken, hockey, sticky wicket

Exceptions:

Sometimes a QU is used to preserve the hard C sound.

liquor, chequers (also, checkers [US])

Sometimes a double C is used in a word to express both a hard C and a soft C sound.

accent

Sometimes a single C acts like a double C.

crocodile, decade, second 

Letter combinations (digraphs)

ch

c and h together create a distinct sound, a digraph.

cherry, cheque, chi, chutney, church

Exceptions:

chemistry, crochet, chenille, Christ, chronology

ck

c and k together create a digraph.

brackets, crickets, flock, quick, rocket

ct  is an uncommon letter combination

act, fact

sc,sce

s and c together are a digraph that emphasizes the s sound.

abscess, acquiesce, descent, effervesce, fluoresce, muscle, rescind, scene, scent, science, scissors

Exceptions:

In these words, the s and c are both pronounced.

school, scholar, score, scream, scoundrel, muscular

Rules of pronunciation

i before e, except after c, gives us the sound of ee (or ē).

conceive, receive, receipt, retrieve

Exceptions:

science, hierarchy, diet 

Special reading assignment

 

  1. Can’t you come to the cottage in October to check on the locks?
  2. Vegetables are a must on a diet. I suggest carrot cake.                   — Jim Davis

 

One thought on “C is for Columbine

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