Silent letters can be tricky when it comes to learning English. Here is some useful information when coming across these sneaky letters.
The silent ‘e’ can be found in many words in the English language. It has different functions, one of them being to make a long vowel sound. For example, when a word follows the pattern Consonant-Vowel-Consonant, it has a short vowel sound. When the silent letter ‘e’ is added, it makes a long vowel sound.
Ex. rat (C-V-C) = short ‘a’ sound
rate (C-V-C-E) = long ‘a’ sound
bit (C-V-C) = short ‘i’ sound
bite (C-V-C-E) = long ‘i’ sound
The silent ‘e’ can also help to change the sound of consonants.
Ex. wag = harsh ‘g’ sound
wage = soft ‘g’ sound
Here are only a few examples of the many words that have a silent ‘e’:
There are few words with a long ‘e’ sound that follow the C-V-C-E pattern as there are various different ways to spell a long ‘e’ sound such as ‘ee’, ‘ea’, and ‘ey’.
When it comes to the silent letter ‘n’, it mainly follows the letter ‘m’. Also, for the most part, it comes at the end of a word. This silent letter is not as common as the silent ‘e’, but here are some examples:
This letter combination can also occur in the middle of words, however, both letters are pronounced most of the time.
There are some words where the silent ‘n’ occurs in the middle of the word.
Many of these words originate from Latin and so do the spelling of these words. Over time, the ‘n’ sound was dropped from the end of words as they were easier to pronounce without it.
The silent ‘b’ is most commonly found in words ending in ‘mb’ or ‘bt’. Some examples are:
When the letter combination ‘mb’ is in the middle of the word, both letters are usually pronounced.
This is not the case with ‘bt’.
Unlike the silent ‘e’, which makes a long vowel sound, the silent ‘b’ doesn’t indicate what the vowel sound will be. Here is an example of three words that only have one letter difference, yet have very different vowel sounds:
Bomb - Comb - Tomb
The most common place to find the silent letter ‘k’ is before the letter ‘n’. This letter combination is found at the beginning of words. Here are some examples:
Again, for English speakers, the letter ‘k’ was difficult to pronounce in these words, so it was eventually dropped and made into a silent letter.
The silent letter ‘g’ mainly occurs in words with the letter combination ‘gn’. This silent letter can be found at the beginning, end, or in the middle of a word. Here are a few examples:
When the letters ‘gh’ are put together, they create silent letters. Here are some examples of words that have the silent ‘gh’ combination:
The silent ‘l’ is found in many common words that we use in everyday conversation. The silent ‘l’ can be paired with different letters; however, it is usually at the end of the word. Here are some examples:
There are more examples of silent letters such as ‘t’, ‘w’, ‘p’, ‘c’, and ‘s’. Silent letters can be problematic when trying to pronounce and spell these words. Knowing the purpose of different silent letters as well as some common spelling patterns can make learning words with silent letters a little easier.