Lots of British English speakers never pronounce /h/, others pronounce it sometimes, but nobody 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, & vị 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 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 & VEHEMENT. You don’t say it after ‘g’ in GHOST, GHASTLY, AGHAST, GHERKIN & GHETTO, or after ‘r’ in RHINOCEROS, RHUBARB, RHYME & RHYTHM. It’s normally silent after ‘w’: WHAT? WHICH? WHERE? WHEN? WHY? but it’s pronounced in WHO? – “Who’d have sầu 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 tend to 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 sầu you finished”, but not in “You must have done”. 


H Droppers

Many British English speakers never, ever say /h/; so they pronounce ‘hill’ and ‘ill’ identically – /ɪl/. These speakers are known as ‘H Droppers’ & 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” and with pronounced H we would say “a hotel”. But some posher speakers tend to treat a pronounced H as if it were not there, so they would say “an historic” and “an hotel”. H droppers tover to lớn 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/, và this is the pronunciation the Đài truyền hình BBC recommends lớn its broadcasters as being “less likely lớn attract audience complaints.” The reality is that both pronunciations are commonly used và some native sầu speakers will switch between both.



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’ lớn make the two dental fricatives /θ/ in THINK và /ð/ in THIS. It combines with ’s’ lớn make /ʃ/ in SHAME, POSH và FASHION, and with c lớn make /tʃ/ in CHIMNEY và WATCH. ‘ph’ is normally pronounced /f/ like in PHENOMENAL và ELEPHANT, but not in SHEPHERD. Sometimes ‘gh’ is also /f/ at the over of a syllable ENOUGH! but it’s more likely khổng lồ be silent – WEIGH, THIGH, THROUGH, THOROUGH và 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 SCHEDULES with a /ʃ/, but in America they are /ˈskedʒəlz/. GB cooks like 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 khổng lồ 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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