H is for Hens and Chickens

Sempervivum sp.
This succulent garden plant is very hardy. Perhaps you call it a house leek.

Letter combinations

The letter H combined with other letters creates new sounds.

ch—  The H changes the sound of C.

chat, cheese, church, witch

Exception

choir

dh—  The H softens the sound of D a little.

dharma, dhow

 Exception

In compound words, the d and h are pronounced.

childhood

gh— The H is silent.

gherkin, ghost

gh —  The H changes the G to sound like an F.

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

gh  The GH combination maybe silent.

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

kh—  The H is silent.

khaki, Khyber Pass

ph—  The H changes the P to sound like an F.

pharmacy, philosophy

Exception

In compound words, the p and h are pronounced.

shepherd

rh—  The H is silent.

rhapsody, rhesus

sh—  The H changes the sound of S.

share, sheep, shore

th—  The H changes the sound of T.

thanks, the, then, thick, thin, thud

Exception

In names, anything can happen.

Anthony, Thomas

wh—  The H changes the sound of W.

what, when, where, who, why

Exercises

  1. Look for letter combinations in words in a book or newspaper. Say them out loud.
  2. Create your own alliteration using one or more of the letter combinations.

Special reading assignment

  1. How do happy hamsters huddle in hutches?
  2. Handymen have hammers.
  3. Hens and chickens are sometimes grown in a thatched roof.

 

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.

E is for Elephant

Loxodonta africana
This African elephant is about to retire from the Toronto Zoo to a sunny place in California.

Silent Es

Truly silent Es do not affect the pronunciation of the word.

are, come, done, ore

English words don’t end in the letter u or v.

blue, cheque, give, have, love

A silent E may serve to create a syllable.

handle, minute (time), pickle, people

A silent letter E affects the vowel that comes before it, making it sound like its name (a hard or long vowel).

Silent E following an A.

bad, bade; cap, cape; fat, fate; late; rat, rate

Silent E following an E.

pet, Pete

Silent E following an I.

line; rip, ripe; spit, spite

Silent E following an O.

hop, hope; not, note; rose

Silent E following a U.

cut, cute; minute (tiny)

Sometimes, the silent E affects the pronunciation of the consonant that comes before it.

Silent E following a C makes an S sound.

lance; place

Silent E following a G makes a J sound.

badge; charge; luggage

Disappearing silent Es

A silent E is sounded once the following suffixes are added to the word:

ed    note, noted; rate, rated

er     cute, cuter; ripe, riper

est    cute, cutest; ripe, ripest

The silent E is also sounded with the following suffix:

age  line, lineage

The silent E disappears with the following suffixes:

able compare, comparable; measure, measurable; value, valuable

age  dose, dosage; pasture, pasturage; store, storage; use, usage

ing   charge, charging; hope, hoping; rate, rating; store, storing

ment abridge, abridgment; argue, argument; judge, judgment (or “judgement”)

The silent E stays put with the following suffixes:

able manage, manageable

age  acre, acreage; mile, mileage

ly     come, comely; late, lately; love, lovely

ment achieve, achievement; move, movement; place, placement

D is for Daisy

Compositae
Did you ever pluck the petals from a daisy, one by one, “He loves me; he loves me not?”

D is for digraphs, doubles and disappearing

Letter combinations (digraphs)

dg─, usually placed before an e, i, or y, sounds like j.

badge, dodgy, judge, wedge, widget

dh─ is pronounced with a silent h.

dhow, dhoti

Double Ds

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

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

buddy, hidden, ladder, wedding

bade, fade, hide, laden, wide

Exceptions:

Sometimes a single d acts as a double-d.

body, credit, educate, study

Three-letter words ending in d usually have a short vowel.

bad, fad, hid, lad, wed

Silent or disappearing Ds

The letter D may or may not be silent or slurred in some words, depending on the dialect of the speaker.

handkerchief, grandson

sandwich, Wednesday, handsome

Exercises

How many words can you think of with double d‘s? Say them out loud.

Now, find similar words with only one d. Does the vowel sound different?

Where do the words, dhow and dhoti, come from?

 

C is for Columbine

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

 

B is for Bridge

This bridge spans the Rideau Canal in Ottawa, Canada.
This bridge spans the Rideau Canal in Ottawa, Canada.

The Letter B

B is a consonant and may be spelled, “bee”.

B is derived from the Greek letter beta and the Phoenician and Hebrew, beth. The original meaning of beth was “house”.

Beta means second. For example, the beta version of software is the next version, usually on trial and somewhat incomplete.

Silent Bs

Words with a silent b include

bdellium (a mineral), and subtle.

Words that end in bt

debt, doubt

Words that end in mb

bomb, climb, comb, crumb, door jamb, dumb, lamb, limb, numb, plumb, succumb, thumb, tomb, womb

Note that words ending in bt or mb keep the silent b, even with the addition of suffixes.

debtor, bomber, plumber

Exceptions

limber, timber [pronounce the b]