The English language contains many words that are spelled with letters that are not pronounced. A few examples include knife, depot, and comb. These types of words do not follow logical rules and simply need to be memorized by students through drills and practice in class.
Here are the basic rules for silent letters in words:
- Silent “g” is followed by “n.” (gnome, gnaw, campaign, lasagna, sign, etc.)
- Silent “u” can be followed by “e” or “i.” (build, guitar, biscuit, guide, silhouette, etc.)
- Silent “w” is usually followed by “r” or “h.” (write, whole, who, wrong, wrist, etc.)
- Silent “n” comes after “m.” (column, autumn, hymn, condemn, etc.)
- Silent “b” can follow ‘m’ or be followed by “t.” (climb, doubt, bomb, lamb, debt, etc.)
- Silent “t” usually comes after “f” or “s.” (listen, castle, soften, wrestle, etc.)
- Silent “h” can follow “c,” “g,” “k,” “r” or “w.” (chaos, ghost, khaki, rhyme, what, etc.)
- Silent “k” is followed by “n.” (know, knife, knit, knock, knob, etc.)
The following list shows examples of words with a silent letter, except for one. Can you tell which one?
In each of these words, the “gh” is silent, except for the word “tough” in which the “gh” takes the sound of /f/.
Showing students groups of words like these is a good way for them to practice distinguishing silent letters. Here is an example worksheet students can complete after a presentation on silent letters:
Silent Letters Worksheet #1
Use the silent letter rules to complete the following words:
Silent Letters Worksheet # 2
In this exercise, students are provided with a text containing several words with silent letters, which they practice reading aloud.
There are three gnomes who live in a castle built on top of a mountain. Every day, they climb down the mountain to go to school, following the signs that lead the way there. When they get inside, they listen to their teacher. If they do well on tests, they are rewarded with a biscuit to fill up their stomachs. But if they drop any crumbs on the floor, they have to kneel down on one knee and say, “Sorry.” In Autumn, the three gnomes stay home from school and learn how to play the guitar because the weather is too cold to ascend the mountain.