Pronounce English words with tricky beginning sounds

Pronounce English Words With Tricky Beginning Sounds

Pronounce English Words With Tricky Beginning Sounds

Did you know that only 20 % of English words don’t ‘play fair’? That is 20% of words aren’t spelt as they sound. That’s a surprise! I thought the percent of unfair words was greater.

Below are some words that are hard to look up in a dictionary because they aren’t written as they sound.  This is an abbreviated version from a list on www.oxforddictionaries.com  I have added words and comments so you can learn to pronounce English words with tricky beginning sounds better.

Use these words to fine up and notice  how you pronounce English words with tricky beginning sounds. If you aren’t sure which syllables are stressed and which aren’t in the longer English words, type the word into dictionary.com and you will hear how it’s pronounced.

Pay attention to which syllable is said with a clear vowel- the stressed syllable, and which is said as if the vowel isn’t there – said as a short ‘u’ sound – the schwa vowel. This is the weak syllable. You need to attune your ear to the stressed syllables , and learn how to make the schwa sounding or weak syllables. English melody and rhythm and therefore being flowing and fluent in English, relies on this. To pronounce English words  fluently is a  constant play between stress and de-stress in words and in sentences.

If you want to be able to pronounce English words with tricky beginning sounds, and to master English rhythm, then practise noticing and pronouncing the following words with the correct stress on the correct syllable. Native English speakers will understand you better.

 

Words beginning with di-?

Some words which sound as though they might begin with the letters di- are in fact spelled de-. Examples include:

deter

dessert

deposit

detach

 

Words beginning with f-?

Some words which sound as if they begin with f- are actually spelled with ph- instead. Examples include:

phrase

phantom

phobia

phenomenon

pharmacy

photo

Words beginning with g-?

There are quite a few words that are pronounced with a ‘hard’ g sound that don’t begin with a g- on its own. Some begin with gh-, such as:

ghost

ghastly

gherkin

ghetto

Others begin with gu-, for example:

guilt

guard

guess

guitar

 

Words beginning with j-?

Many words that sound as if they begin with the letter j-, are spelled with g- at the beginning. For the most part, if a /g/ is followed by an ‘e’, ‘i’ or ‘y’ the /g/ says ‘j’. Examples include:

giraffe

genie

gym

giant

ginger

gentle

Words beginning with k-?

Some words sound as if they have an initial letter k-, but actually begin with the letters ch-, for example:

chorus

cholesterol

chameleon

chrysalis

character

charismatic

Words beginning with n-?

Various words that sound as though they should begin with n- are spelled with different letters. Some begin with gn-, for example:

gnarled

gnat

gnaw

gnome

Others begin with kn. Kn is only ever used at the beginning of English words. For the most part when you hear a /n/ sound at the beginning of words it is usually a /n/ by itself and not the ‘kn’ version-, e.g.:

knee

knife

knot

knowledge

knight

 

Words beginning with s-?

Quite a few words that are pronounced with an ‘s’ or a ‘sh’ sound at the beginning are spelled with c- or ch- instead.

Whenever a /c/ is followed by an ‘e’, ‘i’, or ‘y’ the /c/ always says /s/.   Often if a ‘ch’  says ‘sh’ , it’s because it was originally borrowed from French. For example:

ceiling

city

civilian

centre (center)

cement

centrifuge

charade

champagne

chandelier

chef

Some words which sound as if they begin with an s- in fact begin with ps-. Like the pn- words, they entered English from Greek. Examples include:

psalm

pseudonym

psychologist

psychic

Words beginning with z-?

Several words sound as if they begin with z- but actually start with x-. The main examples are:

xenophobia

xylophone

xerox

 

Best wishes, Esther

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