Here we have the letter G, a nice hard /g/ sound like guitar, go, game and guidebook, and… giraffe….and ginger… and GIF? Oh no, it’s like the letter C all over again!
How to pronounce it.
For hard /g/ as in guitar and go. Raise the back of your tongue up to stop your breath, when you move your tongue down release the air to make the sound. Contrast this with hard /k/ sound – same action but hard /g/ is voiced, if you hold your hand in front of your mouth and say /g/ you’ll feel a little air, when you say hard /k/ you’ll feel more air.
For soft /ʤ/ as in giraffe, ginger, jazz. Put your tongue up, behind your top teeth, and move down, releasing the air. As you’ll see the phonetic symbol looks like a d and a fancy z. The sound of letter D /d/ is similar to soft /ʤ/ but the soft /ʤ/ has more vibration to it.Embed from Getty Images
Gosh! Golly! Goodness me! Your mouth is slightly open when you say one of the sounds of letter G.
go, giraffe, get, guitar, guess, guardian, giant, ginger, giggle, girl, give, glam, general, geography, wage, wag, argue, night, judgement, baggage, egg, shopping.
Which ones are hard /g/ and which are soft /ʤ/, and which are something else? Listen and check here:
If you search for this kind of rule you might find something like this:
When letter G is followed by A, O or U it makes a hard /g/ sound When letter G is followed by E, I or Y it makes a soft /dj/ sound.
But they are not hard and fast rules, so I’m discounting them, they are more like guidelines, than actual rules. They are true sometimes but there are a lot of words that break these rules. Gynecology for example has two Gs, both followed by Y but the first is hard and the second soft. Gym is a soft /ʤ/, Get is a hard /g/, so are the three Gs in Giggle.
OK, so we’ve learnt about hard G and soft G, but that’s not the whole story.
The letter G loves to hang out with groups of other letters and it gets in a bit of trouble with them, like a gangster, sometimes losing its identity entirely. Embed from Getty Images
Here are some of the gangs that letter G belongs to;
- GH at the start of a word – ghost, ghoul, Ghana, ghee, gherkin, ghetto. There’s only a few English words that start with GH and that makes G hard and H silent.
- GU is always a hard /g/. Guess, guest, dialogue, argue.
- OUGH and AUGH. Through, thought, although, cough, rough, daughter, laugh. Yeah I know, I apologise for the English language, there are no excuses for these groups of letters, but one thing is certain, G doesn’t sound hard or soft in this group.
- IGHT. night, tight, fight, right. This combination makes G and H silent, but ensures a long vowel sound with I /ai/ and T.
- GG. Double G is always a hard /g/ sound. Baggage, niggle, smuggle.
- GDE. edge, judge, ledge, budget. This group always works together to make a soft /ʤ/ sound
- NGE together, the G is usually a soft /ʤ/ arrange, strange, danger, orange (except for banger and anger)
- NG at the end of words. Here letters G and N merge together to make a sound like a nasal /n/ in fact it has its own symbol /ŋ/. often this is part of -ing verbs but other words too, for example fang, long, strong, king, sing, being, thing, stung, cling.
Listen the Letter G’s gangs here.
Can you think of any more letter G gangs? Or any more exceptions to these? Let me know below.
By the way, do you know how to pronounce GIF (as in the file used to storage images electronically)? Find out here howtoreallypronouncegif.com