In my last post, I said that the spelling and pronunciation of English can seem crazy, especially to learners from other countries. I this post, I'm going to show you one of the craziest and most difficult things: words with -ough.
First, let's watch this video. "I love Lucy" is an American comedy from the 1950s. Lucy is American and her husband, Ricky, is from Cuba so his first language is Spanish.
So in this video, we find four different ways to pronounce -ough:
1. In "bough", -ough sounds like the -ow in "cow" (/ɑʊ/).
Other words with the same sound are "drought" and "plough".
2. In "rough" and "enough", -ough sounds like -uff (/ʌf/).
Another word with the same sound is "tough".
3. In "through", -ough sounds like -oo in too (/u:/).
I can't find any other useful words with this sound, except "throughout".
4. In "cough", -ough sounds like -off (/ɒf/).
The only other word I can find with this sound is "trough", which isn't a very common word.
There are even more possibilities, not mentioned in the video!
5. In "bought", "fought", "thought" and "ought", the sound is like -or- in "port", the way the British say "port" anyway (/ɔ:/).
6. In "though", "although", "dough" and "furlough", the sound is like -o in "so" (/əʊ/).
7. In "thorough" and "borough", the sound is like the a- in "about" or the -er in "summer" (/ə/). This is only true in British English. In American English, these words have the same sound as number 6.
You might find websites and videos which give you even more options but they are very unusual and perhaps not worth mentioning here. I've told you the important ones.
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