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.
|The 'b' is silent in the combination 'mb' at the end of a word. For example:|
|The 'b' is silent in the combination 'bt'. For example:|
|but not in some words, e.g. obtain, unobtrusive|
|The 'd' is silent in the combination 'dg'. For example:|
|The 'k' is silent in the combination 'kn'. For example:|
|The 'n' is silent in the combination 'mn' at the end of a word. For example:|
|The 'p' is silent in the combination 'ps' at the beginning of a word. For example:|
|The 'h' is silent at the end of word when it follows a vowel. For example:|
|The 'h' is silent between two vowels. For example:|
|The 'h' is silent after the letter 'r'. For example:|
|The 'h' is silent after the letters 'ex' For example:|
|but not in some words, e.g. exhale, exhume|
Silent letters may give an insight into the meaning or origin of a word, e.g. vineyard suggests vines more than the phonetic 'vinyard' would.
Silent letters help to show long vowels e.g. rid/ride
Silent letters help to show 'hard' consonants e.g. guest/gest
They can help to connect different forms of the same word e.g. resign/resignation
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