English in Use/Spelling

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Sound to spelling correspondences[edit]

The following table shows for each sound, the various spelling patterns used to denote it. The symbol "•" stands for an intervening consonant. The letter sequences are in order of frequency with the most common first. Some of these patterns are very rare or unique, such as 'au' for the ah sound in laugh.

Consonants
IPA spelling example
/p/ p, pp, ph, pe, gh pill, happy, Phuket, tape, hiccough
/b/ b, bb, bh, be, p (in some dialects) bit, rabbit, Bhutan, tribe, thespian
/t/ t, tt, ed, pt, th, ct, te ten, bitter, topped, ptomaine, thyme, ctenoid, hate
/d/ d, dd, ed, dh, de, th (in some dialects) dive, ladder, failed, dharma, made, them
/g/ g, gg, gue, gh, gu go, stagger, catalogue, ghost, guilt
/k/ c, k, ck, ch, cc, qu, q, cq, cu, que, kk, kh, ke cat, key, tack, chord, account, liquor, Iraq, acquaint, biscuit, mosque, trekker, khan, make
/m/ m, mm, mb, mn, mh, me mine, hammer, climb, hymn, mho, lame
/n/ n, nn, kn, gn, pn, nh, cn, ne, mn, ng (in some dialects) nice, funny, knee, gnome, pneumonia, piranha, cnidarian, vane, mnemonic, fighting
/ŋ/ ng, n, ngue, ngh sing, link, tongue, Singh
/ɹ/ r, rr, wr, rh, rrh, re ray, parrot, wrong, rhyme, diarrhea, more
/f/ f, ph, ff, gh, pph, u, th (in some dialects) fine, physical, off, laugh, sapphire, BR lieutenant, thin
/v/ v, vv, f, ve vine, savvy, of, have
/θ/ th, chth, phth, tth thin, chthonic, phthisis, Matthew
/ð/ th, the them, breathe
/s/ s, c, ss, sc, st, ps, sch, cc, se, ce, z (in some dialects) song, city, mess, scene, listen, psychology, schism, flaccid, horse, juice, citizen
/z/ s, z, x, zz, ss, ze, c (in some dialects) has, zoo, xylophone, fuzz, scissors, breeze, electricity
/ʃ/ sh, ti, ci, ssi, si, ss, ch, s, sci, ce, sch, sc shin, nation, special, mission, expansion, tissue, machine, sugar, conscience, ocean, schist, crescendo
/ʒ/ si, s, g, z, j, zh, ti, sh (in some dialects) division, leisure, genre, seizure, jeté, Zhytomyr, equation, Pershmg
/tʃ/ ch, t, tch, ti, c, cz, tsch chin, nature, batch, mention, cello, Czech, Deutschmark
/dʒ/ g, j, dg, d, di, gi, ge, dj, gg magic, jump, ledger, graduate, soldier, Belgian, dungeon, Djibouti, suggest
/h/ h, wh, j, ch he, whom, fajita, chutzpah
/j/ y, i, j, ll yes, onion, hallelujah, tortilla
/l/ l, ll, lh, le line, hall, Lhasa, rule
/w/ w, u, o, ou, wh (in most dialects) we, queen, choir, Ouija board, what
/ʍ/ wh (in some dialects) wheel
Vowels
IPA spelling example
/i/ e, y, ee, ea, e•e, i•e, ie, ei, ei•e, ey, ae, ay, oe, eo, is, eip, ie▪e, i, ea▪e, it, eigh, ois be, city, bee, beach, cede, machine, field, deceit, deceive, key, Caesar, quay, amoeba, people, debris, receipt, believe, ski, leave, esprit, Raleigh, chamois
/ɪ/ i, i•e, a•e, y, ie, ui, ei, ee, e, ia, u, o, u▪e, eig, ie•e bit, give, damage, myth, mischief, build, counterfeit, been, pretty, carriage, busy, women, minute, sovereign, sieve
/u/ oo, u, o, u•e, ou, ew, ue, o•e, ui, eu, oe, ough, wo, ioux, ieu, ault, oup tool, luminous, who, flute, soup, jewel, true, lose, fruit, maneuver, canoe, through, two, Sioux, US lieutenant, Sault Sainte Marie, coup
/ʊ/ u, oo, ou, o, w full, look, should, wolf, cwm
/ei/ a, a•e, ai, ay, eigh, ea, ei, ey, au, et, er, ee, aigh, ie, eig, eg paper, rate, rain, pay, eight, steak, veil, obey, gauge, ballet, dossier, matinee, straight, US lingerie, reign, thegn
/ə/ a, e, o, u, ai, ou, eig, y, ah, ough, gh another, anthem, awesome, atrium, mountain, callous, foreign, beryl, Messiah, BR borough, Edinburgh
/o(u)/ o, o•e, oa, ow, ou, oe, oo, eau, oh, ew, au, aoh, ough so, bone, boat, know, soul, foe, brooch, beau, oh, sew, mauve, pharoah, furlough
/ɛ/ e, ea, a, ai, ie, eo, u, ae, ay, ei, ue, eb, eg met, weather, many, said, friend, jeopardy, bury, aesthetic, says, heifer, guess, debt, phlegm
/æ/ a, au, ai, a▪e, al, ag, ach hand, laugh, plaid, have, salmon, diaphragm, drachm
/ʌ/ u, o, ou, o•e, oo, oe sun, son, touch, come, flood, does
/ɔ/ a, au, aw, ough, augh, oa, al, uo fall, author, jaw, bought, caught, broad, walk, BR fluorine
/ɑ/ o, a, eau, ach lock, watch, bureaucracy, yacht
/ai/ i•e, i, y, igh, ie, ei, eigh, uy, ai, ey, ye, eye, y▪e, ae, ais, is, ig, ic, ay fine, Christ, try, high, tie, eidos, height, buy, ailurophobia, geyser, dye, eye, type, maestro, aisle, isle, sign, indict, tayra
/ɑr/ ar, er, ear, a•e, aa car, sergeant, heart, are, bazaar
/εr/ er, ar, ere, are, aire, eir, air, aa stationery, stationary, where, ware, millionaire, heir, hair, Aaron
/ɔɪ/ oi, oy, aw, uoy oy•e foil, toy, lawyer, buoy, gargoyle
/aʊ/ ou, ow, ough, au out, now, bough, tau
/ɚ/ er, or, ur, ir, yr, our, ear, err, eur, yrrh, ar, oeu, olo fern, worst, turn, thirst, myrtle, courage, earth, err, amateur, myrrh, grammar, hors d'oeuvre, colonel
/yu/ u, u•e, eu, ue, iew, eau, ieu, ueue, ui, ewe, ew music*, use, feud, cue, view, beautiful*, adieu*, queue, nuisance*, ewe, few, * in some dialects, see Yod dropping