Pronunciation

Hard and soft g and c

English is a funny old language. It’s such a mishmash of imported words and complicated constructions that it was once described as having French vocabulary and German grammar!

Unfortunately, that means the spelling and pronunciation of words are often different due to silent letters or letters that have different pronunciations depending on the context.

Two of those letters are c and g. Both can be ‘hard’ or ‘soft’:

  • C can be a hard /k/ sound as in ‘coat’ or a soft /s/ sound as in ‘ceiling’.
  • G can be hard /g/ sound as in ‘goat’ or a soft /j/ sound as in ‘suggest’.

The general rule is that both letters are soft before e, i or y and hard before any other letter (or at the end of a word).

However, there are exceptions, especially words with only one syllable such as ‘get’ or foreign words such as ‘ciao’, which is Italian for hello or goodbye and is pronounced ‘chow’.

Quiz

How do you pronounce the following words?

  1. coffee
  2. chorus
  3. gybe
  4. celebrate
  5. cellar
  6. metallic
  7. ageist
  8. gild
  9. gauge
  10. conger

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