Silent Letters in English | Pronunciation Practice

Lesson Overview

Lesson Summary 

Are you ready to practise with me? I’ll teach you to correctly pronounce 115 English words with silent consonant letters. These are common, everyday English words and I’m going to teach you how to pronounce them accurately and naturally!

But you know what…? Silent letters are more common than you think! They are in well over HALF of all English words! Practise these cheeky English words in context with me and learn the correct pronunciation!


Video Transcript
Section 1
Well hey there! I’m Emma from mmmEnglish! In today’s pronunciation lesson, we’re going to practise English words with silent letters in them. It’s true, silent letters are cheeky little buggers. They always confuse my students and they’re always tripping them up.

But silent letters are in well over half of all English words so while they’re annoying, you’ve got to get used to them if you want to improve your pronunciation and speak English clearly.

I’m sure you’re already thinking of a few. Can you think of some English words that have silent letters in them? Especially ones that you keep pronouncing incorrectly.

Let me know about it down in the comments and hopefully, fingers crossed, we’re gonna get some practice with them in today’s lesson.

And while I could give you a big list of rules to try and study, the best way to learn the correct pronunciation is to hear and to see them being used in context and actually practising the sounds yourself. So I’ve got one small request of you, please. I want you to practise along with me in this lesson all the way through to the end. I want you to listen to me first. In each sentence, there is going to be multiple words with the same silent letter.

So your first challenge is to guess what the silent letter is only by listening. If you do, you score a point. Make sure you keep count so that you know how you did at the end of the lesson. I’ll also share some tips with you so you know how to pronounce these words right every time. Okay so you need to listen and try to guess which silent letter occurs multiple times in this sentence, listening first.

1. Silent K

Do you know?

I know you knocked your knee while kneading the dough.

We’ve got know, knocked, knee and knead or kneading.

I know this is a really simple one to get started with but there are several common English words that have a silent letter K and notice that it always happens before an N. Try these ones out with me.

  • knife
  • knot
  • knowledge
  • knack 
  • knuckle
  • knob
  • knit

I know you knocked your knee while kneading the dough.

Your turn.

2. Silent D

Listen.

What letter is the silent letter there? Did you guess D?

I had the most delicious sandwich last Wednesday when I was on a date with a handsome boy.

Try them out with me.

  • sandwich
  • Wednesday
  • handsome

Handkerchief is another but there’s no D sound there. We don’t hear.

We don’t say Wednesday or handkerchief. It’s just Wednesday, handkerchief. No D at all.

3. Silent B

Listen.

Can you guess it?

You got it, there were a few silent B’s in there.

There were lamb crumbs under the plumber’s numb thumb.

Your turn.

Notice that all of these silent B’s have an M before it.

  • lamb
  • crumb
  • numb
  • plumber
  • thumb

So this is a good clue. There are lots of English words that follow this same pattern. It’s not clim-bing but climbing. Not dum-b, dumb.

  • bomb
  • comb
  • limb
  • tomb

Happens quite a bit.

But just when you start feeling comfortable with this pattern and you think: you know what I’ve got this rule, I’ve got it…

I’m going to jump in and let you know that there are some exceptions. Listen carefully to hear the B sound as I say these words.

  • amber
  • clamber
  • slumber

Now I want you to try this one.

  • plumber
  • climber

Nice one.

4. Silent B

Listen. Any idea what that silent letter could be? Still a B.

This is a subtle reminder about the debt I doubted you would repay.

B can be silent when it’s before a T as well.

  • subtle
  • debt
  • doubted

5. Silent T

Listen.

That’s a clue, actually.

So which letter is it?

Soften your voice and listen to the whistle of that bird.

  • soften
  • listen
  • whistle

It’s the T that’s silent in all of them and you can practise some more words with me now.

  • castle
  • Christmas
  • fasten
  • glisten
  • wrestle
  • apostle

So you can see that a T is sometimes silent after an S. But that rule isn’t perfect is it? Because soften and often don’t follow it.

Though often is a bit of an exception because it can be pronounced often with a silent T or it can be pronounced as often.

You’ll hear native speakers saying both. Now it’s a little tricky with adjectives like soft and moist because you can hear that T sound at the end of the word when it’s an adjective but when they become verbs and that T moves to the middle of the word, the sound disappears.

We say soften, not sof-ten. We say moisten not mois-ten.

6. Silent W

Listen.

We’re going in no particular order here. Can you hear it? Probably not because it’s silent.

I wrote the wrong answer at question two.

Your turn.

So the letter W is always silent when it’s at the start of the word and in front of the letter R like in:

  • write
  • wrote
  • wrist
  • wrong

Sometimes you don’t hear it when it’s in front of a H at the start of the word either like:

  • who
  • whoever
  • whole

But that rule is broken completely by words like wheat and whip where it’s actually the H that’s silent.

But a silent W pops up a little more frequently than you realise in words like:

  • two
  • sword
  • answer

You don’t hear it at all.

7. Silent P

Here we go again.

It’s those silent P’s, isn’t it?

The psychologist will start a coup if they don’t provide a receipt for the telephone bill.

We’ve got:

  • psychologists
  • coup
  • receipt

We don’t hear that P at all, absolutely not at the start, in the middle or at the end of a word.

8. Silent C

So listen.

Can you guess which one it is? Which is the silent letter in there?

Different scientific scenarios fascinate me.  

It’s that letter C. It’s usually silent when it appears after an S.

  • scientific
  • scenarios
  • fascinate

Great work!

Can you think of any other examples that have this same combination S with a silent C?

  • muscles
  • scissors
  • scene

I mean really that C just doesn’t need to be there because S is doing all of the work making the sound anyway right. It’s quite superfluous. In fact, that is an excellent way to describe the C in all of these words, it’s superfluous. It’s there but it doesn’t need to be. It’s just an extra thing, right? It’s unnecessary.

The same thing can be said for the C in a choir. Pointless. Superfluous. Doesn’t need to be there but it is.

9. Silent L

Okay listen, I’m going to do this one twice because it’s long.

Can you guess? Which letter is silent five times in that sentence?

Could we talk as we walk through the palm trees for half an hour?

I’m going to show you just how often an L can be silent in English words.

We’ve got:

  • could
  • should
  • would

We don’t hear that L at all.

  • calf
  • half
  • chalk
  • talk
  • walk
  • calm
  • palm
  • salmon
  • yolk

All of those words have silent L’s in them and they’re reasonably common.

10. Silent G

Listen.

It’s a little tricky, that one. There are quite a few different things going on there. But I wonder if you can guess which letter is the silent one in there. It happens several times.

There are signs that this might be a design by the foreign minister’s daughter.

It’s that G.

  • sign
  • might
  • design
  • foreign
  • daughter

So what patterns can we see here? We can see that the G is often silent when it’s before an N and you’ve probably noticed that the combination of G and H in a word can be silent too and this happens a lot.

In fact, -GH is not usually pronounced after a vowel like in:

  • through
  • though
  • high
  • light
  • bright
  • right

All of these examples, though sometimes it’s not silent at all like in cough and enough where that -GH is pronounced as a

11. Silent H

Did you guess it?

Honestly, even if you whisper we can hear an echo.

Honestly not honestly, honestly.

  • whisper
  • echo

The letter H can be silent too and in a few different ways. Sometimes it’s not pronounced at the start of words like:

  • honest
  • honour
  • hour

And it can also be silent if it comes after a C, G or R like in:

  • choir
  • echo
  • ghost
  • rhythm

12. Silent R

Okay listen up. Can you guess? It’s a bit of a tricky one.

I’d rather we wait until February to clear the air.

So February is most definitely the purest silent R in this sentence. February not February. February.

But in my Australian accent and in most British English accents, the silent R is much more common than in American accents because we don’t pronounce the R at the end of words like:

  • rather
  • clear
  • air

Try with me.

  • water
  • mother
  • fear
  • laughter

You don’t hear that -ER sound at the end of any of those words it’s silent.

13. Silent N

Here we go again. Got it?

That damn column was damaged by the autumn winds.

So just like silent B’s, N is silent at the end of a word when it follows M.

  • damn
  • autumn
  • column
  • hymn
  • condemn
  • solemn

You don’t hear it there at all, it’s not autumn just autumn.

So you might ask what the heck is it doing there anyway?

Look to be honest, I don’t know but it is. You can’t forget about it when you’re writing but you can definitely forget about it as you’re speaking.

14. Silent S

Okay this is the last one for today. What letter is the common silent letter there? It’s that S.

It’s silent in words like:

  • island
  • debris
  • aisle
  • even

The storm left debris and damage across the whole island.

Your turn.

I hope that you enjoyed that lesson. Make sure you let me know, like the video or drop me a comment down below to tell me. Were you able to guess most of those silent letters just by listening or did it become a little bit easier when you saw the word appear up on screen?

We went through a hundred and fifteen words with silent letters in them which is pretty epic so well done for sticking with me.

Of course, this video focused on silent consonants but I’ve got another one coming out soon that will focus on silent vowels in English words so if you’ve got questions about silent letters in English pronunciation then make sure you drop them down in the comments below, make sure you subscribe to the mmmEnglish channel and then come and check out a new lesson with me right here.

Links mentioned in the video

Related videos

  • 50 TONGUE TWISTERS in English for pronunciation practice
    50 TONGUE TWISTERS in English for pronunciation practice

  • Learn All English Sounds & Pronounce Words Perfectly with the IPA!
    Learn All English Sounds & Pronounce Words Perfectly with the IPA!

  • English Conversation Training (Workout #1)
    English Conversation Training (Workout #1)