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  • Hi. Look, I'm really sorry about this, but as you probably know,

  • the way we spell things in English is not always the way we say them.

  • Take these four letters, for example, o u g h.

  • How do we pronounce them? Well, it all depends.

  • Put a 't' at the end and we have'ought'.

  • So, o u g h is pronounced [aw]

  • But put a 't' at the beginning and it's 'tough'.

  • o u g h is now pronounced [uff].

  • So far so bad!

  • But now let's add one more letter to make 'though'.

  • o u g h is [o]

  • Again, one more letter, r, makes 'through'.

  • o u g h is [ew]

  • Can we keep going?

  • Yes we can.

  •   Let's add another letter, o, we have thorough.

  • o u g h is now [u].

  •   OK, add one more letter and,

  • actually that's it. We can't extend any further with just one letter.

  • But you see the point,

  •   the same letters pronounced five different ways.

  • Five!

  •   You know that's not the end of it.

  • Depending on what part of the English speaking world you come from,

  • there are around 11 different ways of pronouncing o u g h.

  • Eleven!

  • Why is this?

  • Well, a long time ago, the way we spelt things wasn't really fixed.

  • So people wrote things down the way they thought they sounded.

  • Gradually over time, the spellings became fixed,

  • particularly after the printing press was invented in the 15th century.

  • Unfortunately, although spellings were fixed,

  • something called The Great Vowel Shift was happening.

  • This was a period of about two hundred years

  • when for a number of reasons, the way we pronounced vowels in English

  • completely changed.

  • I know, crazy, huh?

  •   So how does this help us today?

  • Well, to be honest, not at all.

  • But don't panic.

  • There aren't actually that many o u g h words anyway,

  • and most of those are quite common. So you may already know them.

  • Are there any rules if you come across a word you don't know?

  • Well, some guidelines, but not really rules.

  • If a word ends in o u g h t then it is more than likely pronounced [awt]:

  • thought, bought, brought, fought, ought, nought, sought.

  • If it's two syllables and ends in o u g h,

  • it's probably [u]: thorough, borough.

  • Other than that, the best way of finding out the pronunciation

  • is to use a dictionary because with 11 different possibilities,

  • you might guess the right one, but the odds are not great.

  • For example, and this is completely true, when researching this topic,

  • I came across an English word I hadn't seen before. S o u g h.

  • It's a verb which means to make a soft whistling sound

  • like the wind blowing through the trees.

  • I said a soft whistling sound!

  • That's better.

  •   But how to pronounce it?

  • Was it sough like dough, sough like cough, sough like rough,

  • sough like plough, sough like through, sough like hiccough?

  • I guessed sough like cough.

  • Was it a good guess?

  • Nope!

  • Annoyingly it can actually be pronounced two different ways,

  • but neither of them the way I guessed.

  • If you want to know the correct way, you'll have to do what I did.

  • Look it up. It's the best way. Bye.

  • You didn't really think I'd go without telling you.

  • If you've stayed this long. I think you deserve the answer.

  • It's sough like plough or even sough like rough.

Hi. Look, I'm really sorry about this, but as you probably know,

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B1 pronounced letter fixed cough guessed rough

Is 'ough' the Trickiest Sound in English? | English Spelling & Prounciation Lesson

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    林宜悉 posted on 2021/09/20
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