All About Silent Letters

July 4, 2018

Learning a different language is hard enough without the added complication of silent letters; these are letters that are not pronounced within the word. They cause extreme difficulty for both learners, as well as native speakers, because they create issues with the written form of the English language and make the spelling different from the pronunciation.

There are a few reasons behind why silent letters are used in the English language:

Other Languages

After borrowing some words from other languages, English also decided to keep the pronunciation too e.g. ‘hour’.

Combination

When a word is made up of two words, the letter in the middle often become silent e.g. ‘shepherd’.

Passage of Time

Some silent letters were used in Old English many years ago, where they were actually pronounced. Over time, the pronunciation of these words has changed but the spelling has not e.g. ‘knee’.

Here are some examples of the most common silent letters:

Silent B: debt / subtle / doubt / dumb / bomb / crumb

Silent C: muscle / scene / scissors / descend

Silent G: night / straight / eight / flight

Silent L: talk / half / could / almonds / salmon

Silent N: autumn / column / damn

Silent P: receipt / cupboard / psychic

Silent S: isle / aisle / island

Silent T: listen / mortgage / fasten / Christmas

Silent W: two / sword / answer / whole

These are just a small selection from the English language, so there are a lot to learn! TOP TIP One of the best ways to try and remember the spelling of these words is to pronounce the silent letter in your head whenever you are using it. This way, it will be phonetic and you will come to know where the silent letter appears.