This post is about the letter H. Some people like to call it ‘aitch’ some people like to call it ‘ haitch’, but I’m not a prescriptivist, you can call it whatever you like. Maybe Harry or Bert. If you want to google ‘how to pronounce H’, you’ll find the BBC says the standard pronunciation is ‘aitch’ but they will not correct people who say ‘haitch’.

How to pronounce H

Whichever way you name letter H, now let’s look at how to pronounce it. English H is a very soft sound. Open your mouth slightly, lips apart, teeth a little apart, and then breathe. That’s all. H is a voiceless sound so no vibrating, no sound at all really.

How to spell it

The interesting thing about H is that, at the start of a word H is always followed by a vowel or Y.  Let’s repeat that

At the start of a word H is always followed by A,E,I,O,U or Y

This also affects its pronunciation. Because H is such a soft sound your mouth position when saying /h/ will adjust according to the vowel that’s coming next.

Watch Rachel’s English to find out more about this pronunciation  

Other spellings with H

Like letter G, H has certain groups of friend it likes to hang out with and which affect its pronunciation. TH for example, is a unique combination which we looked at here. T and H are besties, and H and G are good friends too, although G always comes first. More about GH here.  W and H also get on well, but W nearly always makes H silent, as in what, when, where, why, while, white, whisper

But ‘who’ is the exception to this.

H is also mates with S and C, and together they both make completely different sounds. Check, church, chin, bunch, fish, shine, shun, dish.

Silent H

So words with WH usually make H silent, but there are more words with silent H and boy are they confusing

  • heir
  • honest
  • hour
  • *herb
  • exhausted
  • exhibition
  • rhyme
  • rhinoceros
  • *vehicle

*in American and Canadian accents the H in herb is often silent, in the rest of the world it is pronounced. In some accents the H in vehicle is pronounced, mostly it is not.

Listen to the silent H words here:

Quiz time

Which words have a silent H?

Listen to the quiz words here:

Can you think of more silent H words here, which ones give you a headache? Let me know below.







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