G is for Goatsbeard

Tragopogon sp.
Reminiscent of a giant dandelion, goatsbeard grows up to three feet tall.

The sounds of G

Hard G sound

game, get, give, ghee, go, gut, guide

Soft G sound

gene, generate, George, giant, ginger, gyre

Silent G 

G is silent in the gerund ending, —ing,

making, paying, walking

when combined with an n (—gn—) or similarly, an m,

assign, foreign, sign, gnat, gnu

phlegm

and when combined with an h (—gh—). See exceptions below.

flight, nigh, night, right, slough (meaning wetland), weigh

 

Letter combinations

dg— makes a soft G sound.

edge, fidgety, gadget, hedge, judge

ge— makes a soft G sound, similar to J.

gene and jean sound the same

rage, rag

gh— may have different sounds, depending upon the word, or it may be silent (but not a soft G sound).

eight, slough (pronounced slew, meaning a wetland), through

rough, slough (pronounced sluff, meaning to shed one’s skin)

laugh (pronounced laff)

ghee, gherkin (the gh here makes a hard G sound)

gi— may be a soft G sound, similar to J.

giant

logic

Exceptions

gibbon, gild, gingham, give, log-in

gng is silent when followed by an n.

gnaw, gnome, Gnostic, gnu

ing, ung make a nasal sound with a silent g.

king, fling

sung, young

Exercises

  1. Find a text in a newspaper or online. List the words containing the letter G. How do you pronounce them? Make your own sentences with these G words.

Special reading assignment

  1. The gentle gunner gave the growling dog a good gob of gristle.
  2. George begrudged Guy his ill-gotten gains.

F is for Fall Fair

Norwood Fall Fair
The Ferris wheel is always the central attraction at the fall fair.

Consonant — consonant combinations

fb         puffball                                     bf         dumbfounded

fc         off-centre [off-center, US]        cf

fd         half-done                                  df         goldfish

ff          iffy                                            ff          riff-raff

fg         Afghan                                     gf         jugful

fh         selfhood                                   hf         truthful

fj          fjord (or fiord)                          jf

fk         offkey                                       kf         blackfly

fl          flow                                          lf          elf

fm        self-made                                 mf        roomful

fn         deafness                                   nf         unfit

fp         hoofprint                                   pf         campfire

fr         frown                                       rf         perfume

fs         offshoot                                    sf         misfit

ft          gift                                            tf          artful

fw        halfway                                   wf        sawfish

fx         FX                                           xf         exfoliate

fy         verify                                        yf         mayfly

Consonant — vowel combinations

fa         fall                                            af         after

fe         feel                                           ef         effect

fi          find                                           if          if

fo         fob                                           of         often

fu         full                                            uf         ruffle

fy         puffy                                         yf         mayfly

Exercises

  1. Add some more words to the “Consonant — Consonant Combinations” word list and the “Consonant — Vowel Combinations” word list.
  2. Identify suffixes, prefixes, and compound words.
  3. Make sure that you know the meaning of each word. Use it in a sentence.

Special reading assignment

  1. Fogerty and his friend Petroff found fuzzy frozen figs from Finland in the freezer.

E is for Elderberry

Sambucus
Elderberry bushes are an old-fashioned plant, growing perhaps at the site of an old farmhouse.

How to say E

A hard or long E.

eel, Egypt

Several soft or short E sounds.

elk, everything, exert, forest, rent, web

A flat, short sound.

naked, rely, renew

The E in each of these words has a different sound.

era, the, there, prey, met, England, sew, herb, clerk 

Diphthongs

ew  creates a sliding vowel sound, although it is a vowel—consonant combination.

blew, chew, crew, dew, flew, grew, jewel, knew, news, renew, skew, screw, threw, view

Letter combinations (digraphs)

ea— generally has the same sound as —ee. There are all sorts of exceptions.

Easter, easy, great, meat, peace, zeal

ea— heart

ea— earn, earth, heard, search

ea— head, health, measure, peasant

ea— bear, swear, wear

ea— steak

ea— appeal, arboreal, clear, idea, real, urea

ea— forearm, mileage

ea— bureau, chateau

ee— greet, meet, sleet, wheel

ei— eider, Einstein, either

ei— beige, eight, neigh, vein

ei— conceive, receive

eu— Europe, eureka

eu— museum

eu— neuron

eu— tuneup

Exercises

  1. Using text from a newspaper or book, identify and write down a list of words containing the letter E.
  2. Which of these words has a hard or long e (one pronounced like the letter E)?
  3. Which has a soft e (as in egg)?

Special reading assignment

  1. Eventually everyone exits.
  2. Elderberries make good wine or jelly.
  3. Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries.

— Monte Python

D is for Drumlin

Glacial landscape feature
A drumlin is a north-south ridge of gravel, the shape of a beached whale.

D is for digraph

 

You can guess at the meaning of digraph because di— means “two” and —graph means “something written.” A digraph is two letters that have one sound. In older forms of English, the two letters might be run together, such as ae (æ). In vowel digraphs, the second letter is usually silent. English dialects introduce some variation in pronunciation.

 

Note: Digraphs are letters.

 

ch         chew

ck        check

dg        judge

ng         doing

sh         shout

th         that, think

ph        pheasant

wh        what, when, where, who

 

ae         archaeology [formerly, archæology]

ai          maid, maintain

au         audit

ay         day, tray

ea         bean, eat, teach

ee         fleece, sweet

ei          eight, receive

ey         key

ie          die

oa        boat, coast

oe        potatoes

oo        book, look

ow       slow

ue         true

D is for diphthong

 

Diphthong also begins with di— for “two”, but the second part of the word is derived from a difficult Greek word, phthong, meaning “sound” but also related to “tongue”.

 

A diphthong is (1) two vowels that act together to create a sliding sound within a syllable (the letters Y and W often act as vowels in this instance). It is also (2) two sounds that slide within one vowel (not a digraph). English dialects introduce some variation in pronunciation.

 

Note: Diphthongs are sounds.

 

a          rate, table

ai          fail, rain

au         daughter, haul

aw        draw, hawk

ea         create, eagle, great

ei          height

ew        dew, jewel, new

ey         convey, obey

i           arrive, high, private, sign

ia          dial, trial

ie          science

io         pioneer, riot, violet

o          ago, no, roll

oe        poet

oi         coil, noise, stoic

oo        cool, fool, moon

ou        out, mouse, soul

ow       down, how, know, throwing

oy        boy, oyster, voyage

ua         casual

 

ue         statue

uy         buyer, Gruyère, guy

y          by, hype, sky

yi          flying, trying

Exercises

  1. Try to pronounce the word diphthong. Do you prefer to say “dip-thong” or “diff-thong”?
  2. Sound out words to identify digraphs and diphthongs. Which ones are the most commonly used?

D is for Dog

Canis lupus familiaris
A dog walker in a city park.

Consonant — consonant combinations

db        tidbit                                         bd        abduct

dc        handcuffs                                  cd

dd        caddy                                       dd        wedded

df         goldfish                                   fd         chiefdom

dg        edge                                         gd        kingdom

dh        jodhpurs                                   hd        withdraw

dj         adjust                                       jd        

dk        vodka                                       kd        workday

dl         headline                                   ld         bold

dm       windmill                                  md       gumdrop

dn        midnight                                  nd        send

dp        sandpiper                                 pd        update

dq        bed quilt                                   qd

dr         drive                                         rd         murder

ds         friends                                      sd         wisdom

dt         hardtop                                    td         hotdog

dv        advent                                      vd       

dw       midwife                                    wd       powder

dy        dynamic                                    yd        hydrate

dz         adze                                         zd         samizdat 

Consonant — vowel combinations

da        dab                                          ad        admire

de        debit                                        ed        dotted

di         did                                           id         rid

do        doughnut (or donut)                od        odd

du        dub                                          ud        puddle

dy        dynasty                                    yd        hydro rate 

Exercises

  1. Look at the list of consonant—consonant combinations and think of more words for each set of two letters.
  2. Which letter combinations exist only in a compound or two-part word?
  3. Add a vowel between two consonants to make some new words.
  4. Look at the consonant—vowel combinations and think of more words for each. Which combinations are rare and which, common?
  5. Write the words in the air, first with your right hand and then your left hand. Try writing the words so they look right to someone facing you. Have fun!

 

 

A is for Aphids

Hemiptera, aphids, plant lice
These unusually red aphids are attacking a plant in Edwards Gardens, Toronto.

Vowel—vowel combinations
Read through the two lists, below, and note that it is the first letter in a vowel–vowel combination that dominates the pronunciation.

List 1

aa, aardvark

ae, aerate

ai, air

ao, aorta

au, auburn

List 2

aa, Aaron (boy’s name)

ea, meat

ia, striate

oa, float

ua, actual

Special reading assignment

  1. “Ambition is putting a ladder against the sky.”                          —American proverb.

 

A is for Alvar

alvar
This alvar is near Ottawa, Ontario.

Alvars can be found around Canada’s National Capital Region.

Some letter combinations

ae— is found in words derived from Latin and may have different pronunciations, depending on regional dialects.

Aesop (an ee sound)

palaeontology  (ee or A sound)

aerial (ai sound)

aesthetic (soft e sound)

ar ─ The letter R may change the pronunciation (this is called an R-controlled vowel).

arch, arbour, archangel, argon, argument, ark, arm, art

Exceptions:  Arab, arid, arise, array, arrest, arrive

au─  The au letter combination is not pronounced the same way each time. A diphthong is a way to slide a sound. Try these out.

auburn, auction, audio, August, aura, Australia, auto, automatic, autumn, because, caught, cause, clause, daughter, faucet, fault, Paul, sauce, taught, taut, vault

In some ─au─ words, this letter combination is not pronounced as a diphthong.

aunt, beautiful, quay (pronounced key)

The aw  and ay combinations are also diphthongs. Try these words.

aw

caw, claw, crawl, dawn, draw, flaw, gnaw, hawk, jaw, law, lawn, macaw, paw, pawn, raw, slaw, straw, thaw, Warsaw, yawn

ay

ay, aye (yes), ayah (Hindu nurse)

air─ is a common combination in many words. Are these diphthongs?

chair, fair, hair, lair, pair, stair

Exception:  naïve [French]

all─ is a common combination in many words.

all, allow, ball, fall, hall, small, wall

alt─ is a common combination in many words.

alternate, cobalt, halt, malt, salt

alk─ is a common combination in many words.

alkaline, chalk, stalk, talk, walk

Exercises

  1. Read through the lists of words. Can you think of any more to add in each category?
  2. Play with the words a little. Act them out. Write them up in the air using your left hand and your right. Write them down on paper.
  3. Listen to your friends. Do they pronounce the letter a differently? Which words do they pronounce and how? What do you prefer?

Special reading assignment

An alvar is a limestone plain with little or no soil and unique vegetation.