Silent letters - information, a quiz and a spelling test.


Silent Letters. 

Check out the video below.

Silent letters are the letters in words that are not pronounced but make a huge difference to the meaning and sometimes the pronunciation of the whole word. 

The bad news is that more than 60% of English words have silent letters in them which can cause all sorts of problems spelling the word or looking for the word in a dictionary. The good news is there are some rules about what letters are silent before or after certain letters ( but like all English spelling rules there are exceptions to the rule). 

A lot of silent letters help the reader to distinguish between homophones (remember the blog about homophones? Same sound, different meaning and different spelling) in/inn, be/bee, lent/leant, know/no, knot/not, to/too/two, whole/hole.

A silent letter can help us work out the meaning of the word and change the pronunciation even though it's silent -  sin/sign,  rat/rate

Magic 'e' - if you add 'e' at the end of short vowel words it elongates the sound -  rid/ride, cop/cope, hat/hate, tap/tape, at/ate, mat/mate,  (more on magic 'e' in another blog). 

They can also show the history of the word. Knife, knock, know, gnat, gnaw are all Viking words. Daughter, night, dough, bright are all Anglo Saxon words. Plumber is a Roman/Latin word.

Sometimes people might pronounce certain letters or they might not depending on their accent, e.g. the t in 'often' can be pronounced or not. H is silent in a lot of accents. For me h is a difficult letter to pronounce because I grew up dropping the h and my muscle memory doesn't like it at all! 

Most silent letters used to be pronounced but then over time we stopped saying them. That's why we have such strange spellings.

One way to start to love spelling and improve it is to take an interest in words, to discover the logic in the spelling system and to understand the background and history of words.

1. What's the origin of words with the silent k and g? Knife, knock, know, knee, gnat, gnaw?

2. Why is there a silent b in plumber?

3. Why are there silent letters in doubt, debt, receipt?

4. What's the origin of the words with the silent 'gh' like daughter, night, light,  bright, dough, bough (branch of a tree) and why is 'gh' in cough and enough  
pronounced with a 'f'?

5. Why is there a silent s in island?

Find out all these answers in my new ebook The Reasons Why English Spelling is so Weird and Wonderful. Click here for more info.

Ready for a spelling test with silent letters? There are 18 words. If I go too quickly just pause the player. I'll say the word three times then after the 18 spellings I'll give you a clue about the silent letter.

Ready? Press the player below, it might take a few seconds to load.

Download | Duration: 00:06:43

After the test check the words carefully.
The podcast spellings


How did you do? Remember to come up with memory tricks or use Look Say Cover Write Check to help learn the spelling.

A few silent letter rules but like all English spelling rules there are always exceptions.

'k'  is often silent before 'n' - knee, know, knuckle, knock...
w' is often silent before 'r'  - write, wrist, wrong, wrap...
g'  is often silent before 'n' - gnat, gnaw, gnash, gnarl...
p'  is often silent before 's' - psychic, psalm, psychology, psychiatry...
l'  is often silent before 'k'  -  folk, walk, talk, yolk...
b' is often silent after 'm' - plumber, numb, dumb, bomb, comb, climb, thumb...
n' is often silent after 'm' - autumn, column, solemn, hymn...
t'  is often silent after 's' - listen, fasten, glisten, castle... 

Thank you for returning to my blog. I hope it was useful. Join me next week for more fun. 


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