Words commonly mispronounced

English spelling is notoriously unphonetic. This page looks at some of the words which cause most pronunciation difficulties for learners of English. The phonetic transcription is provided for some of the words below. If you are not sure of the pronunciation of any of the other words, check in the index at the back of the book.

To master English pronunciation you need to learn the 20 phonetic symbols for English vowel sounds. It is not really necessary to learn the consonant symbols as it is usually not difficult to know how consonants should be pronounced. Vowels are important because the vowel letters can be pronounced in many different ways.

Silent letters can be a problem. The letters below in bold are silent in the following words:

In a number of two-syllable words in English, the stress is on the first syllable of the word when it is a noun and the second syllable if it is a verb, e.g. ‘Wool is a major Scottish export.’ ‘Scotland exports a lot of wool.’ Here are some other words like this.

conduct conflict contest decrease suspect

desert import increase insult transfer

permit present progress protest transport

record reject reprint subject upset

Here are a number of other words which are often mispronounced.

apostrophe /a’postrafi/ catastrophe /ka’tasstrafi/ cupboard /’kAbad/

recipe /’resipi/ hiccough /’hikAp/ sword /so:d/

plough /plau/ muscle /’mAsal/ interesting /’intrastig/