English is a continually evolving language comes from many linguistic sources including Old French, Latin, Norse, Anglo-Saxon (Old English) and many others. English is a phonetic language but with many exceptions. The spelling of words in English can tell you its’ origin and evolution.  Silent letters help identify the word’s origins. Students in spelling bees will often ask for the word’s origins to help them spell unfamiliar words correctly. This article covers the rules for Silent L, Silent N, Silent P, Silent T, and Silent W.

Silent L

Rule: L is not pronounced after the vowels A, O, and U.
Examples: calf, calm, balm half, talk, walk, yolk, chalk, folk, would, should, could, salmon
Exceptions: bulk, sulk, Halo, hold, sold, fold, mold

Silent N

Rule: N is not pronounced when it follows the M at the end of a word.
Examples: Autumn, column, hymn, solemn, damn

Silent P

Rule 1: P is not pronounced at the beginning of many words using the combinations PS, PT, and PN.
Examples: Pneumonia, pneumatic, psychotherapy, psychotic, psychologist, psychiatrist, pseudonym, Pterodactyl

Rule 2: P is not pronounced in the following words:
Examples: Coup, cupboard, raspberry, receipt

Silent S

Rule: S is not pronounced before L in the following words:

Examples: island, isle, aisle, islet

Silent T

Rule: T is not pronounced in these common words:
Examples: Christmas, castle, fasten, listen, often, whistle, thistle, bustle, hasten, soften, rapport, gourmet, ballet

Silent W

Rule 1: W is not pronounced at the beginning of a word when it is before the letter R.
Examples:  whole, wrack, wrap, wrapper, wrath, wreath, wreck, wren, wrench, wrestle, wretched, wriggle, wring, wrinkle, wrist, write, wrong, wrote
Rule 2: W is not pronounced in the following words:
Examples:  who, whose, whom, whole, whoever, answer, sword, two, answer, awry, playwright