A question from Patrick in Poland:
When we compare the words with ‘g’ i.e. finger and fringe, each word has its ‘g’ pronounced differently. Is it rule governed? How do we know how to pronounce ‘g’?
Trudi Faulkner-Petrova answers
Click below to hear the answer:
Hello Patrick, you’ve given me a difficult question to answer because there is a rule about pronouncing ‘g’ but, typically with the English language, there are many exceptions to this rule!
The pronunciation of ‘g’ generally (but not always) depends on the letter that follows it. The general rule is this: if the letter after ‘g’ is ‘e’, ‘i’ or ‘y’, the pronunciation is a ‘soft g’ as in ‘fringe’. Some examples of words with the soft ‘g’ are:
general, giant, gymnastics, large, energy and change.
Any other letter that follows requires a ‘hard’ pronunciation of ‘g’ as in ‘progress’ and some more examples are:
golf, pig, great, grasp and gum.
A bit of extra info for you: if a word derives from German, it’s usually a hard ‘g’, and if it is a Latin or French derivative, it’s a soft ‘g’.
So can you think of a word which has two g’s and uses both rules? That’d be ‘language’! And ‘garage’ and ‘gigantic’ too. However, as I mentioned before, there are many irregularities. Words like ‘get’ and ‘give’ break the rule which is unfortunate for learners of English. What I’d suggest is making a note of exceptions to help you remember them, so here are a few exceptions to ‘get’ you started:
tiger, gift, girl and gear.
About Trudi Faulkner-Petrova
Trudi Faulkner-Petrova has a BA (Hons) in English, Bsc. in Psychology and Cert.TESOL. She has been teaching EFL, EAP and Business English in international schools, businesses and universities in Beijing over the last 10 years. Currently, she is a freelance tutor for ESOL, English Literature, SAT/TOEFL preparation and also works for the British Council as an IELTS and BULATS examiner. She is in the final year of studies for an Msc. in Psychology.