I am one of the fortunate few (million) who did not have to learn English, but rather grew up with it as a ‘natural’ thing – it was the only language in my environment.
I say that because i think if i grew up with another language as my initial one i would never be able to figure out how to speak or use English correctly because every ‘rule’ it has gets broken, often in more than one way.
My current confusion* (i’ve had many, and, as i said, i grew up only speaking and writing English – and i am pretty good at it if i do say so myself! 😉 ) has to do with the two letters ‘G’ and ‘H’
Put them together and you can make the word ‘Ghost’ – the G is ‘hard’, as in Dog, and the h is ‘silent’, the start of Ghost sounds the same as the start of gold or, well… just Go!
So gh makes a guh sound…. like g does in go or good. But then we get caught out trying to use gh as ‘guh’ when it sounds like absolutely nothing at all (both g and h are silent in the word ‘caught’ above). Why would you spell a word with two silent letters in the middle of it? Surely we are smart enough to see straight through that rubbish?
Waitaminit! enough? straight?? through??? FF and silent now?
“The Grey Ghost was caught and thought he had been through quite enough so he decided to play tough and stayed silent – like g and h are when together (three times) in this sentence.”
And just why does ‘caught’ and ‘taught’ rhyme with ‘ought’ and ‘bought’? Is it a-ught or o-ught? Seemingly it is both.
Then we have Egghead and Bighead (guh-huh) and (admittedly an adopted word from a different language) Yoghurt (a ‘gg’ – guhguh – sound).
So two letters in English can either sound like a single hard g (ghost) a double gg (yoghurt), a double ff (rough, tough or enough – like fluff!), a g-h (bighead) and also be completely silent. (fought or thought!) Five ways to say the same two consecutive letters?
On the same subject: Why does ‘bought’ rhyme with ‘rort’ but ‘bough’ ryhmes with ‘cow’?
And then just why does ‘thought’ also rhyme with ‘rort’ but ‘though’ rhymes with ‘throw’ and not rhyme with ‘cough’ or ‘cow’?
Rules? What Rules!
*A previous confusion covered the more than 30 different spellings of the ‘oo’ sound in English… you can find it here: An-english-view-or-views-of-english-even (Opens in a new window).