Cracking the Code: Your Ultimate Guide to Spelling Words with Silent Letters in English

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Understanding the Role of Silent Letters in Spelling

Have you ever noticed that some letters in English words don’t seem to be pronounced when spoken aloud? These silent letters, though tricky to navigate, are an essential part of English spelling. 

In this guide, we'll delve into the world of silent letters, exploring common patterns, understanding the historical context, and learning practical tips.  By the end, you'll be equipped with the knowledge and skills to master silent letters with confidence.


Tip 1: Learn Common Spelling Patterns 

Common silent letters in English include: k, w, b, t, l, n, h, g, and p. You can use the letters than come for or after a potential silent letter to help you work out if it is pronounced of not. 

Use the practice activities and games to learn these silent letter spelling patterns. Don’t forget you can click on the speaker icon next to each word to hear how it is pronounced.

Silent k words

In words starting with kn, the letter k is silent.

  1. knack: k-n-a-c-k - He has a knack for gardening.
  2. knapsack: k-n-a-p-s-a-c-k - My water bottle is in my knapsack.
  3. knee: k-n-e-e - I have a bruise on my knee.
  4. knit: k-n-i-t - I am going to knit a scarf.
  5. knoll: k-n-o-l-l - A knoll is a small grassy hill.
  6. knob: k-n-o-b - He turned the knob to open the door.
  7. knock: k-n-o-c-k - There was a loud knock at the door.
  8. knowledge: k-n-o-w-l-e-d-g-e - Bill has an extensive knowledge of history.
  9. knuckle: k-n-u-c-k-l-e - I grazed my knuckle whilst playing hockey.
  10. knot: k-n-o-t - The knot was too tight to undo.

Silent h words

Look for the gh and rh letter patterns in some of the words.

  1. honest: h-o-n-e-s-t - To be honest, I don't know the answer.
  2. ghost: g-h-o-s-t - I think there's a ghost living in my attic.
  3. ghastly: g-h-a-s-t-l-y - His taste in clothes was ghastly.
  4. aghast: a-g-h-a-s-t - I'm aghast at the huge rise in food prices.
  5. gherkin: g-h-e-r-k-i-n - Would you like a gherkin in your burger?
  6. ghetto: g-h-e-t-t-o - He escaped from the city ghetto and made a better life.
  7. ghoul: g-h-o-u-l - I think there's a ghoul living in my attic.
  8. rhinoceros: r-h-i-n-o-c-e-r-o-s - The rhinoceros is an endangered species.
  9. rhubarb: r-h-u-b-a-r-b - Rhubarb is her favorite fruit.
  10. rhyme: r-h-y-m-e - These words all rhyme: time, crime, chime.
  11. rhythm: r-h-y-t-h-m - They danced to the rhythm of the music.
  12. vehicle: v-e-h-i-c-l-e - My car is a reliable vehicle.
  13. exhibition: e-x-h-i-b-i-t-i-o-n - Many people visited the art exhibition.
  14. exhaust: e-x-h-a-u-s-t - We might exhaust ourselves, but we will finish the race.

Silent p words

Look for the pnps and pt letter patterns to indicate a silent p. Watch out: these are the hardest spellings on the Spellzone course!

  1. pneumatic: p-n-e-u-m-a-t-i-c - The workman had a pneumatic drill.
  2. pneumonia: p-n-e-u-m-o-n-i-a - Pneumonia can be a very serious illness.
  3. psychic: p-s-y-c-h-i-c - The old lady had psychic powers.
  4. psychiatry: p-s-y-c-h-i-a-t-r-y - Psychiatry is the study and treatment of mental illness.
  5. psychiatrist: p-s-y-c-h-i-a-t-r-i-s-t - The psychiatrist worked at the hospital.
  6. psychedelic: p-s-y-c-h-e-d-e-l-i-c - Psychedelic drugs can be dangerous as they alter the mind.
  7. psychology: p-s-y-c-h-o-l-o-g-y - My brother is studying psychology at college.
  8. psychologist: p-s-y-c-h-o-l-o-g-i-s-t - A psychologist studies the way the mind works.
  9. psychopath: p-s-y-c-h-o-p-a-t-h - The killer was found to be a psychopath.
  10. psychosis: p-s-y-c-h-o-s-i-s - Psychosis is a serious mental illness.
  11. psychotherapy: p-s-y-c-h-o-t-h-e-r-a-p-y - Her eating phobias were cured by psychotherapy.
  12. pterodactyl: p-t-e-r-o-d-a-c-t-y-l - The pterodactyl is now extinct.
  13. pterosaur: p-t-e-r-o-s-a-u-r - The pterosaur is now extinct.
  14. ptarmigan: p-t-a-r-m-i-g-a-n - The ptarmigan is a brown bird living in the colder parts of Europe.
     

Tip 2: Use the Look, Say, Cover, Write, Check Method

Look, Say, Cover, Write, Check is a classic for a reason – it provides results! You can use every Spellzone word list – including all of these practice lists for words with silent letters – in a Look, Say, Cover, Write, Check spelling activity. 

This method works best if you take your time.

When you look a word; notice the shapes of the letters and how they are positioned within the.

Click on the speaker icon to hear how the word is pronounced and then repeat the word aloud. When you say a word with a silent letter, listen out for if it sounds differently to how it’s spelt. Try saying the word exactly how it’s spelt, for example emphasise the b in debt or the g in gnat. This will help you reinforce the correct spelling and pronunciation of the word.

After you’ve covered your words and had a go at spelling them, we recommend you go over any words you spelt wrong and test yourself again.

To play Look, Say, Cover, Write, Check, choose a word list and click on the eye icon to the right of the title.
 

Tip 3: Use Mnemonics to Help you Remember Silent Letters

A mnemonic is a device to help you remember something and they are great for spelling. 

Here are some mnemonics to help you remember how to spell words with silent letters:

  • Put a silent next to a word that includes the same letter. For example: remember gnome by picturing a garden gnome. The g at the start of garden will help you remember the silent g in gnome.
     
  • Try and put lots of words with the same silent letter into one sentence. For example: I know I can’t knit knickers with a knife on my knobbly knees.
     
  • Link the word with another to help you hear and remember the silent letter. For example: Christmas – Christ, crumb – crumble, sign – signal.
     

Tip 4: Study Word Origins:

Knowing the history of a word helps put silent letters into context which, in turn, can help remember to spell them. 

For example, knowing the word plumber comes from the Latin ‘plumbum’ meaning ‘lead’ helps us to understand why the word is spelt with a silent b.  
 

Take the Next Step: Elevate Your Spelling Skills with Spellzone

Mastering the art of spelling words with silent letters requires patience, practice, and an understanding of linguistic patterns. By recognizing common silent letter patterns, using mnemonic devices, practicing pronunciation, studying word origins, and testing yourself, you will be able to confidently navigate words with silent letters and enhance your spelling skills in no time. 

Ready to put your newfound knowledge to the test? Start practicing with our interactive spelling activities and word lists on Spellzone! With tailored exercises designed to reinforce silent letter concepts, you'll be spelling like a pro in no time.

So why wait? Dive into Spellzone now and take your spelling skills to the next level! Sign up for a free trial today.


18 Mar 2024
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"This is a fantastic opportunity for our students!  I'm sure Spellzone will be invaluable in helping them to improve their spellings and therefore improve the quality of their writing in all subject areas!"

Teacher, High School, UK