Tuesday, 9 June 2009


If there is one thing certain about English pronunciation it is that there is almost nothing certain about it. No other language in the world has more words spelled the same way and yet pronounced differently. Consider just a few:
heard - beard
road - broad
five - give
early - dearly
beau - beauty
steak - streak
ache - moustache
low - how
doll - droll
scour - four
grieve - sieve
paid - said
break - speak
(Selected from Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson).
Isn´t it amazing? My advice : if it´s a new word, don´t simply guess its pronunciation. Look it up in your dictionary or try http://www.howjsay.com/
Words such as DRAUGHT, BURY, PURCHASE and SOUTHERN may surprise you.


  1. Chris,
    Pronuciation is the trickest thing in any language. I wish I could have some lessons and improve my pronunciation, I've been working hard on this.
    Thanks, you always help us a great deal on this.

  2. @Andrea

    Hi honey,
    Pronunciation x spelling is enough to drive anyone nuts (natives too!).
    I always make a point of correcting my candidates' pronunciation mistakes. Once in a while a candidate corrects me! I like it!

    Keep blogging!

  3. Yes, spelling even for a native like me is sometimes tricky. You can't necessarily sound the word out. It's a matter of both knowing the word and looking it up in the dictionary. One word that I think is particularly tricky is COUPON. If one were to try to sound it out and spell it, it would not be spelled correctly. It's like comparing COUPON with COUP. The latter is often referred to as such but the complete word is coup d'état. The "coup" part of both words are pronounced completely different. In COUPON one would pronounce the "P" but in COUP the "P" is silent.

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  5. That is why it is really important not only to read in English, but to listen to English as well!

    Durval, Plus 5

  6. That's very useful.

    Daniel Plus 5

  7. @Jacqueline

    Hi Jackie,
    About the word "coup", is it possible that the "p" is not pronounced because "coup" is actually a French word?
    Another word we tend to mispronounce is "corps"(as in army corps). The "p" is silent.
    How about "receipt"? Are all these words French?
    Anyway, it's enough to drive a poor Brazilian struggling to learn your beautiful language crazy!

  8. @ Chris

    Hi Chris,
    You make an excellent point, "coup" is a french word and that is why it is not pronounced. "Corps" is another great example of the "p" being silent. Yet, I believe the origin of the word comes from Latin "corpus." As for the word "receipt," I am unsure of its origin. That is definitely a tricky word. In general, English is a tricky language. Nevertheless, practice makes perfect! :-)

  9. @Jacqueline

    Hi Jackie,
    What a relief it is to find that you sympathize with us Brazilians in what regards the "impossible" spelling of some English words.

    You'll soon be with us in Brazil, right?
    See you soon,