Lots of British English speakers never pronounce /h/, others pronounce it sometimes, but notoàn thân pronounces it all the time, in other words, it’s a grey area.

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So what is H? When is it silent? Is the letter ‘Haitch’ or ‘Aitch‘? Oh, & bởi vì we really need it, onestly?


If you’re going khổng lồ pronounce H, imagine you are steaming up a mirror /h/. It’s a voiceless fricative sầu in the throat, it isn’t made in the mouth /x/ or on the lips /ɸ/. Altogether now: “Harry has hairy hands”.


Silent H

H is always silent in HONOUR, HOUR, HONEST, HEIR, VEHICLE và VEHEMENT. You don’t say it after ‘g’ in GHOST, GHASTLY, AGHAST, GHERKIN và GHETTO, or after ‘r’ in RHINOCEROS, RHUBARB, RHYME và RHYTHM. It’s normally silent after ‘w’: WHAT? WHICH? WHERE? WHEN? WHY? but it’s pronounced in WHO? – “Who’d have thought it?”. And we don’t always say it after ‘ex’ – which is either EXHILARATING… or EXHAUSTING.

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Weak H

The weak function words: HE, HIM, HIS, HER, HAVE, HAD và HAS all tover lớn thua the H if the word doesn’t appear at the beginning. So say H in “He’s ok”, but not in “Is he really?”. Pronounce it in “Have you finished”, but not in “You must have done”. 


H Droppers

Many British English speakers never, ever say /h/; so they pronounce ‘hill’ và ‘ill’ identically – /ɪl/. These speakers are known as ‘H Droppers’ và it’s a clear feature of most regional British accents – London included, altogether now: “Harry has hairy hands”. 


a/an + H

The rule goes that the article ‘a’ is used before a consonant & ‘an’ is used before a vowel, so with silent H we would say “an honest” & with pronounced H we would say “a hotel”. But some posher speakers tkết thúc khổng lồ treat a pronounced H as if it were not there, so they would say “an historic” & “an hotel”. H droppers tover khổng lồ always use ‘an’, so cockneys would say “Give us an (h)and” and “She’s renting an (h)ouse”.



The pronunciation of the letter itself is unclear, should it be /heɪtʃ/ or /eɪtʃ/? The standard or ‘correct’ version in GB is /eɪtʃ/, and this is the pronunciation the Đài truyền hình BBC recommends to lớn its broadcasters as being “less likely khổng lồ attract audience complaints.” The reality is that both pronunciations are commonly used và some native speakers will switch between both.

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The sound /h/ is always spelt with an H. But that’s not the only time we see it in English. It combines with ’t’ to make the two dental fricatives /θ/ in THINK and /ð/ in THIS. It combines with ’s’ khổng lồ make /ʃ/ in SHAME, POSH và FASHION, & with c khổng lồ make /tʃ/ in CHIMNEY & WATCH. ‘ph’ is normally pronounced /f/ like in PHENOMENAL và ELEPHANT, but not in SHEPHERD. Sometimes ‘gh’ is also /f/ at the kết thúc of a syllable ENOUGH! but it’s more likely to lớn be silent – WEIGH, THIGH, THROUGH, THOROUGH & BOROUGH. Oh and let’s not forget the /p/ in HICCOUGH.


American vs British

Some famous differences between GB English và its American counterpart involve H. In GB we have sầu SCHEDULES with a /ʃ/, but in America they are /ˈskedʒəlz/. GB cooks lượt thích the H in HERBS, whereas they prefer /ˈɜːrbz/ across the pond. 


Do we really need /h/?

Most Latin based languages have got rid of /h/ – you won’t find one in Spanish, French or Italian lớn name a few, & there has been an ongoing debate for centuries as lớn whether we need the sound at all in English. When you consider words lượt thích ‘hospital’ dropped their /h/ to lớn /ˈɒspɪtəl/, then got it bachồng again, và the fact it simply doesn’t exist in most regional accents, you may wonder whether /h/ is just a fashion accessory bandied around by elocutionists elusively seeking ‘correctness’. 


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