If you struggle with your English pronunciation don’t worry! There are times when pronunciation can be a problem for native speakers too! Just watch Justin Trudeau mispronounce “heir” while being sworn in as the Prime Minister of Canada. Yes, the Prime Minister of Canada making a mistake with English pronunciation!
The Silent /h/
There is no real reason why in some English words the /h/ is silent but fortunately there aren’t that many.
So let’s practice them:
Heir /eə/ is pronounced like air not hair:
Hour /aʊwə/ is pronounced like our the possessive adjective:
Honour/ɒnə/ is pronounced:
Herb /hɜ:b/ in Standard British English you MUST pronounce the /h/:
But in American English the /h/ is silent: /ɜ:rb/
Where else do we find the silent /h/?
The /h/ is also silent after the letter /w/:
why, what, when, where, which, whisper, white, whistle, wheel, while
Listen and repeat:
The /h/ is sometimes also silent if it comes after /r/ / g/ or /ex/
ghost, ghetto, rhyme, rhino, exhibit, exhausted
Listen and repeat:
So how do you know if a words’ /h/ is silent or not?
When you learn a new word, look it up in a dictionary or on an app that has a pronunciation feature. Learn it’s pronunciation and then use it when you speak. Make a point of it.
My favourite site is www.howjsay.com – this site is like a talking dictionary. Bookmark it now! To use it, all you do is type in the word you want to check the pronunciation of; and when it appears you move your mouse over it to hear the correct pronunciation. It’s so easy!
Go to this website to practice some more silent /h/ words:
If you need more ideas on how to improve your English then contact us. By joining one of our specialized English courses you can develop your English skills quickly. And if you don’t feel like travelling you can have private online lessons. We are here to answer your questions!
Nicoletta is the co-founder of English One. She holds a Dip. TESOL (licentiate) from Trinity College, London. She is a passionate teacher and teacher trainer with well over a decade of EFL experience.
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