Pronunciation - Silent Letters

Keep quiet sign
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Silent letters are letters that are not pronounced in a word. There are many silent letters in English, including the letter 'e' at the end of a word, the letter 'b' following 'm,' and many, many more. Can you guess which letter is silent in these words?

  • hope - silent 'e'
  • comb - silent 'b'
  • island - silent 's'
  • bought - silent 'gh'

Here is a list of common letter combinations with silent letters in alphabetical order. This list contains most of the silent letters that give English as a second language students difficulties.

Silent B

B is not pronounced when following M at the end of a word.

climb - I climbed the tree in the park.
crumb - There's a crumb of bread on your lapel.
dumb - That's a really dumb question.
comb - Do you carry a comb with you?

Silent C

C is not pronounced in the ending "scle."

muscle - He's building up muscle with that exercise. 

Silent D

D is not pronounced in the following common words:

handkerchief - Adding a handkerchief to your suit provides a touch of class.
Wednesday - I'm not working this Wednesday.

Silent E

E is not pronounced at the end of words and usually makes the vowel long.

hope - I hope to see you soon.
drive - I'll drive the car to Seattle tomorrow.
gave - Jennifer gave him a book for his birthday. 
write - Do you write letters anymore? 
site - We visited the monument site last week.

Silent G

G is often not pronounced when followed by an N.

champagne - Let's drink champagne!
foreign - She works for a foreign bank.
sign - The sign says 'exit'. 
feign - Don't feign that you care!

Silent GH

GH is not pronounced before T and at the end of many words.

thought - I thought about you last week.
through - Let's take a drive through the park.
daughter - My daughter was born in Pisa.
light - There's a beautiful light in the sky.

Silent H

H is not pronounced when following W. Some speakers whisper the H before the W.

what - What did you say?
when - When does the train leave? 
where - Where are we going?

H is not pronounced at the beginning of many words. Use the article "an" with unvoiced H. Here are some of the most common:

hour - I'll see you in an hour. 
honest - To be honest, this is difficult. 
honor - It's an honor to have you over for dinner. 

Silent K

K is not pronounced when followed by N at the beginning of a word.

knife - I cut the fish open with a knife.
knee - Bend your knees and jump. 
know - Do you know the answer?

Silent L

L is often not pronounced before L, D, F, M, K.

calm - It's a calm day in paradise. 
salmon - Let's have salmon for dinner. 
talk - Let's talk soon. 
should - You should come over next week. 

Silent N

N is not pronounced following M at the end of a word.

autumn - It's a beautiful autumn day.
hymn - Open to hymn 25 and let's sing. 

Silent P

P is not pronounced at the beginning of many words using the suffix "psych" and "pneu".

psychiatrist - The psychiatrist asked lots of questions.
pneumonia - Pneumonia can be a very dangerous disease.

Silent S

S is not pronounced before L in the following words:

island - We took a ferry to the island. 

Silent T

T is not pronounced in these common words:

castle - The castle stood upon the hill overlooking the valley. 
fasten - fasten your seatbelts and lets go for a ride. 
listen - Listen carefully to what I say. 

Silent U

U is not pronounced before after G and before a vowel.

guess - I guess I don't know the answer.
guitar - While my guitar gently weeps. 
guest - She's our guest tonight. 

Silent W

W is not pronounced at the beginning of a word followed by an R.

wrap - Wrap up the present for Tom.
write - I need to write an essay tomorrow. 
wrong - I'm afraid you are wrong. 

W is not pronounced with these three pronouns:

who - Who do you know in town?
whose - Whose job is it?
whom - Whom should we ask. 

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Your Citation
Beare, Kenneth. "Pronunciation - Silent Letters." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Beare, Kenneth. (2023, April 5). Pronunciation - Silent Letters. Retrieved from Beare, Kenneth. "Pronunciation - Silent Letters." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 3, 2023).