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The Complete List of
English Spelling Rules

Lesson 6: Silent G and Silent P


In this series of lessons, you will learn useful spelling rules in English.

This lesson talks about two letters that are sometimes silent in English: g and p. We will look at some common words and letter combinations in which these letters are not pronounced.

a policeman with a stop sign

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For example, the policeman is holding a stop sign. In this word, the g is silent. Only the n at the end of the word is pronounced.

In fact, you will find the -gn combination at the end of many English words. When this combination appears at the very end of a word, the g is not pronounced.

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When someone is from a different country, we say that they are foreign. As you know, many people who are learning a new language go to a foreign country to study.

Because this word ends in -gn, the n is pronounced, but the g is silent.

Here are some more common words that follow this pattern:
  • assign
  • reign
  • resign
  • consign
  • design
  • align
  • campaign
  • sovereign
  • benign

Also, the words cologne and champagne, which end in -gne, follow the same rule for pronunciation. The g is silent, and only the n is pronounced. The e at the end is a kind of "magic" e, so it is also silent.

You will also find many common words in English that begin with gn-. In this case, the g is also silent.

a man chasing an insect

For example, a gnat is an insect that looks like a very large mosquito.

In this word, the g is silent. We only pronounce the sound of the letter n at the beginning of the word.

Here are some other words that follow the same rule:
  • gnu
  • gnome
  • gnaw

Another letter that is often silent at the beginning of words is the letter p.

a psychiatrist and a patient

For example, a psychiatrist or psychologist is a special kind of doctor that helps people to solve emotional or mental problems. 

In these words, the p is silent, but the s is pronounced.

Many words in English begin the same and follow the same pronunciation rule:
  • psychic
  • psychology
  • psychiatry
  • psychotherapy

There are also a few words in English that begin with the pn- combination. A good example is pneumatic, which talks about something that works with air under pressure, or pneumonia, an illness of the lungs.

One other very common with a silent p is receipt. This is the little piece of paper you receive to prove that you bought something.

Review

So, let's review what we have learned about the silent g and p in English:
  1. When a word begins or ends with the gn combination, the g is silent, but the n is pronounced.

  2. When a word begins with ps- or pn-, the p is silent.

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