This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.
Skip to main contentAccess keys helpA-Z index

 
You are in: Learning English > The Flatmates
Learning English - The Flatmates  
The Flatmates
Language Point
Navigation spacer Navigation spacer  
 
Archive Language Point 53
Language Point logo

Silent letters

Helen, Alice, Michal and Tim in the kitchen
There are a lot of silent letters in English. This is because although the pronunciation of some words has changed over the last two or three hundred years the spelling has stayed the same.

There aren't many hard and fast rules, it's more a matter of learning which letters are silent in certain combinations of letters. Here are some of the most common silent letters.

In the following examples, all silent letters are given in brackets.

Silent 'b'

The 'b' is silent in the combination 'mb' at the end of a word. For example:

bom(b) clim(b) com(b) crum(b)
lam(b) lim(b) plum(b)er num(b)
The 'b' is silent in the combination 'bt'. For example:

de(b)t dou(b)t su(b)tle
but not in some words, e.g. obtain, unobtrusive

Silent 'd'

The 'd' is silent in the combination 'dg'. For example:

ba(d)ge e(d)ge han(d)kerchief he(d)ge
han(d)some ple(d)ge we(d)ge We(d)nesday

Silent 'k'

The 'k' is silent in the combination 'kn'. For example:

(k)nack (k)nee (k)new (k)nickers
(k)nife (k)night (k)nitting (k)nob
(k)nock (k)not (k)now (k)nuckle

Silent 'n'

The 'n' is silent in the combination 'mn' at the end of a word. For example:

Autum(n) dam(n) hym(n) colum(n)
condem(n) solem(n)

Silent 'p'

The 'p' is silent in the combination 'ps' at the beginning of a word. For example:

(p)salm (p)sychiatry (p)syche (p)sychology

Silent 'h'

The 'h' is silent at the end of word when it follows a vowel. For example:

cheeta(h) Sara(h) messia(h) savana(h)
The 'h' is silent between two vowels. For example:

anni(h)ilate ve(h)ement ve(h)icle
The 'h' is silent after the letter 'r'. For example:

r(h)yme r(h)ubarb r(h)ythm
The 'h' is silent after the letters 'ex' For example:

ex(h)austing ex(h)ibition ex(h)ort
but not in some words, e.g. exhale, exhume

Vocabulary:

to throw up:
to be physically sick

to hardly touch a drop:
to not drink much alcohol

to chat up:
to get to know someone and talk to him or her in a romantic way

give me a break:
stop annoying me (in this case, teasing Alice about Dr Laver)

Most Recent

Last 3 episodes

 

Last 3 language points

 

Last 3 quizzes

 

What's next?

What's next logoThe quiz

Go back

Go back logoThe episode