Unit 23: Great expectations!
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- 1 Nice to meet you!
- 2 What to wear
- 3 Like this, like that
- 4 The daily grind
- 5 Christmas every day
- 6 Great achievers
- 7 The Titanic
- 8 Travel
- 9 The big wedding
- 10 Sunny's job hunt
- 11 The bucket list
- 12 Moving and migration
- 13 Welcome to BBC Broadcasting House
- 14 New Year, New Project
- 15 From Handel to Hendrix
- 16 What's the weather like?
- 17 The Digital Revolution
- 18 A detective story
- 19 A place to live
- 20 The Cult of Celebrity
- 21 Welcome to your new job
- 22 Beyond the planets
- 23 Great expectations!
- 24 Eco-tourism
- 25 Moving house
- 26 It must be love
- 27 Job hunting success... and failure
- 28 Speeding into the future
- 29 Lost arts
- 30 Tales of survival
A boy or a girl? In this session, we hear about the arrival of a baby and learn some idioms used to talk about expecting a child
What is the opposite of day? And what is the name of the chess piece in this picture?
The answers to these two questions sound the same, but they’re spelt differently. Night and knight. You might wonder how these words can sound the same when they have a different letter at the beginning. The key to understanding this is that in English we sometimes have silent letters. These are letters that we see in words - but don’t actually pronounce.
Normally, ‘k’ in English makes a /k/ sound, like in ‘kick’. But before an ‘n’ we don’t say the /k/ sound – so ‘knight’ is pronounced /naɪt/. And the word ‘night’ is also pronounced /naɪt/.
This might sound confusing, but don’t worry because this episode of 6 Minute Vocabulary will help you understand them.
Write down the words you hear that have silent letters.
Listen to the audio
Hello and welcome to 6 Minute Vocabulary. I’m Catherine…
And I’m Rob. In today’s show we’re going to look at a very important part of spoken and written vocabulary: silent letters.
Silent letters. We’ll look at what they are, where they appear and how to say them…
There’ll be a quiz…
And we’ll leave you with a top tip for learning vocabulary.
But first, let’s listen to Nick. He’s at the doctor’s, and it’s not good news.
No, it’s not. While you listen, try and answer this question: what treatment does the
doctor suggest for Nick?
Take a seat. What seems to be the problem?
It’s my wrist – it really hurts!
Let’s see if we can work out what’s wrong. Do you have pain anywhere else? What about your elbows and knees?
No. They’re fine. But I can’t move my thumb and I don’t know why.
Well. Have you done anything physically demanding recently?
I did play tennis yesterday…
You’ve probably just got a pulled muscle then. You’ll just have to rest your wrist. No playing tennis for a while I'm afraid.
So, we asked you: what treatment did the doctor suggest for Nick?
And the answer is: he told Nick to rest his wrist.
He did: well done if you got that right. Now, wrist – that’s the bit of your body that joins your arm to your hand – is an example of the vocabulary area we’re looking at today – and that’s words with silent letters, Rob.
Yes: we spell this word wrist, w-r-i-s-t, but when we say it, we don’t pronounce the first letter /w/. Instead, we start with the sound from the second letter in the word, which is the letter r - pronounced /r/.
Let’s listen to Nick again.
It’s my wrist – it really hurts!
So we don’t say w-rist: we say wrist. Wrist. Some other words that start with a silent w are…
Write: that’s w-r-i-t-e, like to write a letter, and wrong, w-r-o-n-g, meaning not correct. In fact, there’s a rule here, which is: we don’t usually pronounce the w in words that begin w-r. When did you last write a letter, Catherine?
I wrote a letter on paper… I really don’t know Rob, to be honest, it’s all email for me now.
That’s a good idea, with your handwriting.
Probably. Now, Nick said another word with a silent letter:
… but I can’t move my thumb and I don’t know why.
The word was know, meaning: to recognise and understand something, is spelt k-n-o-w but we don’t say the letter k. So it isn’t k-now but know.
It’s know. So, another rule for you: we don’t normally say the k in words that begin k-n: like knee, the joint between your upper and lower leg, and knife, the tool we use to cut things. Knee and knife start with silent k.
Excellent. Now, Nick also said a word with a silent letter at the end.
He did, it’s a part of the hand: you’ve got four fingers, and then the fifth one that sticks out the other way is your thumb; that’s thumb spelt t-h-u-m-b, but we don’t pronounce the final b. We don’t say thum-b – we say thumb. Thumb.
Some other words with a silent b at the end are…
Climb, like to climb a ladder, and lamb, a baby sheep.
Do you like lamb, Catherine?
I do like lamb! I like lambs when they are alive, I have to say, I also quite like eating them.
6 Minute Vocabulary from BBC Learning English.
And it’s time for a quiz. Count the silent letters in these sentences. Number one. There’s something wrong with my wrist.
And the answer is two. Wrong and wrist both begin with a silent w.
Good. Sentence number two. I don’t know why my thumb hurts.
And the answer is two again. Know starts with a silent k and thumb ends with a silent b.
And the last one. No, I can’t climb up there because I’ve hurt my knee.
Well, climb has a silent b at the end, and knee starts with a silent k. But the word no at the beginning of the sentence is the opposite of yes, so it’s spelt n-o. So the answer is: there are two words with silent letters in this sentence.
Well done if you got those right.
And that brings us almost to the end of today’s programme.
Before we go, here’s today’s top tip for learning and recording vocabulary: when you learn a word, and you know it has a silent letter, mark the silent letter very clearly in your vocabulary notebook. That way you won’t forget how to say it.
Thank you – I know what to do now! There’s more about this at BBC Learning English dot com. Join us again for more 6 Minute Vocabulary.
Did you hear - or rather not hear the silent letters in some of the words? The ones that were used were:
silent letter/ words
End of Session 1
So Session 1’s over and we’ve heard about someone who is expecting a baby! In the next session we’ll hear some advice for new mums and look at examples of the first conditional. If you join us, you might learn some new grammar!