English Has Crazy Pronunciation! Why “-gh” Words Don’t Sound Similar.

The crazy spelling of English reflects the etymology (or origin) of English vocabulary.
Begin by watching Claire Bowern’s simple TED Talk on the origins of English.

So. now you know that the reason why these endings are spelled similarly but are pronounced differently is due to their country/language of origin.

Now, let’s look at some specific examples:

One set of “gh” words rhyme with “stuff.”  Here are some common examples.


Basketball players are tough.


He had a rough night.  He’s probably had enough to drink!

Another set rhymes with the word “off.”  Here are some common examples.


She has a bad cough.


Farm or ranch animals drink from a trough.

Another group rhymes with “O.”  Here are some common examples.

(though, although,  borough)


He’s rich. He has a lot of dough.


Security at the airport is very thorough.

Another group rhymes with “awe.”

( fought, naught, ought, sought, wrought, thought…)


This person brought home some fruit.


She thought about the painting she bought.

Another group rhymes with “too.”


He bought some coffee at Starbucks’ drive-through window.

A final group rhymes with “how.”


Birds sat on the boughs of the tree.

More Practice:  The above lesson was following English pronunciation rules.

If you would like to hear the same lesson, but using British pronunciation,  read and listen to Howtospell’s thorough (ough, sounds like O) video.