Britlish

Silent H at the Beginning of Words

Pronunciation | Speaking | Listenings

Pronunciation

No matter how good your English grammar and vocabulary may be, if your pronunciation is so bad that nobody can understand a word you say, then your English won't be much good as a means of communication. You might be good at grammar, have a broad vocabulary, and be able to explain all the aspects and tenses of English, but it's not much good if you can't be understood when you speak. I have designed these Activities to help you to improve your pronunciation, as well as other areas of your English.

Speaking

It's not easy to teaching speaking skills remotely through a website, however good the site is. To really practice your speaking skills, you need someone to speak to who can correct your mistakes as you go. The Activities here will go some way to helping you to improve your speaking skills by helping you to mirror the speech you hear in the lesson. In this way, you can notice how your speech differs from that in the Activities and, by recording your own speech, you can adjust your pronunciation to more accurately match that in the Activities.

Listenings

Reading is the easiest way to take in English. Listening is a much harder skill and one that has to be developed as you study the language. There are lots of speech features that arise when native English speakers speak English. These speech features, such as elision, simplification, intonation, stress, and rhythm, and the way in which speakers may miss out sounds or whole words, are important to understand if you are to be able to listen to and fully understand spoken English. These Britlish Library Activities will help you to develop you listening skills.  

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Some English words begin with the letter H but don’t start with the / h / sound. This is because these words were borrowed into English from the original French. At first, they kept their French pronunciation, but gradually, over time, most of them became Anglicised and lost their French connection. Some of them, however, refused to lose their posh French pronunciation. These words, like honour, never had the / h / sound inserted at the beginning. I made this video and the English Activation Pack to help students like you learn which words should be pronounced with an initial / h / sound and which should not.

Click any symbol to go to the sound

interactive IPA chart tree insect woman food egg schwa bird horse ant sun art clock ear train pure bear toy eye boat owl pepper bubble tattoo duck chair jam key gun fan van thumb mother snake zoo ship genre nasals hat lamb ram wasp yellow

This is our British English phonetic chart. It is the chart that we use in the Sounds British Interactive British IPA Chart eBook. It is also called the IPA chart and contains forty-four symbols. Each symbol represents a sound in English. It is important that you can distinguish each of the different sounds on the chart.

Some of these symbols in the IPA chart match the letters of the alphabet and have their usual English sound values. That is, the letter of the alphabet and the sound represented by the IPA symbol are always the same. This is only true of the following consonants: p, b, t, d, k, m, n, l, r, f, v, z, h, w. The rest of the consonant letters of the alphabet have no set sound value: c, g, j, q, s, x, y. Neither do the five vowel letters, which are: a, e, i, o, u.

Take the words cat and key for instance. Both begin with a different consonant letter. K is always pronounced as /k/ while C has no set sound value and its sound can change depending on the word in which it is found. In the case of the word cat, C is also pronounced as /k/, but it is not pronounced the same in the word chair. The IPA allows us to write down the actual sound of the word. cat becomes /kæt/ while key becomes /ki:/ and chair becomes /ʧeə/. Phonetic symbols representing sounds not letters will be written between forward slashes //. Anything you see written between forward slashes represents sounds not letters of the alphabet.

The vowels

On our chart, the vowels are in the top half of the chart in the red and green sections. The red section contains the pure vowels (monophtongs) and the green section contains the gliding vowels (diphthongs). A vowel is a sound which is produced with the whole vocal tract open so that there is no obstruction to the passage of air from the lungs and out of the nose and mouth. Vowels form the peak of syllables in words. For example, in the word vowel we have two syllables, vo and wel. You can see that both syllables contain a vowel sound supported by the consonants.

The Consonants

On our chart, the consonants are in the three rows in bottom blue section. A consonant is a basic speech sound in which the breath is at least partially obstructed, and which can be combined with a vowel to form a syllable. Consonants can only be produced with a vowel. There are twenty-one letters in the English alphabet which represent consonants. These are, B, C, D, F, G, H, J, K, L, M, N, P, Q, R, S, T, V, X, Z, and usually W and Y. The letter Y can be both a consonant, as in the word yolk, and a vowel, as in the word myth and the word funny. The letter W can also be a vowel sound in very rare words such as those borrowed from the Welsh, as in cwm.

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