A silent letter is simply a letter in a word that is written, but not pronounced, making things very difficult for non-native speakers
Some examples: ‘K’ in Knife, ‘W’ in Write, or the ‘G’ in Gnaw.
So, why do we even have these letters in the words at all?
It has to do with the evolution of the English language and merged influences from other languages, especially Latin and French. However, these new words from the other languages caused problems because they didn’t follow the same grammar rules as English. So, even though the spelling of these words remained the same, some letters had to become silent to conform to the rules of the English language.
Significance of Silent Letters
-They help the reader to distinguish between homophones in/inn, be/bee, to/too/two, know/no, whole/hole, knot/not.
-Magic ‘e’ – if you add ‘e’ at the end of short vowel sound words it elongates the sound – rid/ride, cop/cope, hat/hate, tap/tape, at/ate, mat/mate.
-Sometimes people might pronounce certain letters or they might not depending on their accent, for example the ‘t’ in ‘often’ can be pronounced or need not be.
-‘H’ is silent in a lot of accents. But the ‘H’ is silent in some words from French – hour, honest, honour, heir, herb (in American)
-They show the origins and history (etymology) of a word.
Some Examples of Silent Letters in Use:
A – artistically, logically, musically, romantically, stoically
B – climb, comb, crumb, debt, doubt, numb, plumb, subtle, thumb, tomb,
C – acquire, acquit, blackguard, czar, muscle, scissors, victual
D – handkerchief, wednesday
E – when added to the end of a word, it changes the pronunciation of the word, but is in itself, silent.
F – halfpenny
G – align, alight, champagne, diaphragm, gnash, gnaw, high, light, reign, though,
H – choir, exhaust, ghost, heir, hour, khaki, thyme
I – business
K – blackguard, knead, knell, knickers, knife, knight, knock, knot, know
L – calf, calm, chalk, folk, half, psalm, salmon, talk, yolk
M – mnemonic
N – autumn, chimney, column, condemn, damn, hymn, solemn
O – colonel – opossum
P – corps, coup, pneumonia, pseudo, psychology, ptomaine, receipt
R – butter, finger, garden, here, myrrh
S – aisle, apropos, bourgeois, debris, fracas, island, isle, viscount
T – asthma, ballet, castle, gourmet, listen, rapport, ricochet, soften, thistle
U – catalogue, colleague, dialogue, guess, guest, guide, guilt, guitar, tongue
W – answer, sword, two, whole, wrist, writ, write
X – faux pas
Z – laissez-faire, rendezvous
One way to start to love spelling and improve it is to take an interest in words, to discover the logic in the spelling system and to understand the background and history of words, and this especially is true for learning silent letters in English language.