9 Consonant Digraphs You Need to Know

Learning these consonant digraph sounds will improve your reading, pronunciation, and spelling. These letter combinations are very common. The complication is that their pronunciation is nothing like their individual letter sounds. Look through them, and also notice the most common words they form.

English spelling can be very strange. Sometimes words keep part of the spelling of the language they came from. Often one sound can be written several ways.

The good news is that there are patterns to English spelling.  Learn the patterns shown on this page, ESL Phonics , Short and Long English Vowels, and English Vowel Digraphs. Then you should be able to recognize and pronounce most common English words.

Common Consonant Digraph Sounds

Digraphs are letter combinations that make a single sound.

The digraphs listed here make sounds different from the individual letter sounds blended together.

CH, GH, PH, SH, TH, & WH (plus -tion)

    1. CH makes three sounds in English: most commonly /tʃ/: chair, child, church,  & catch, march, watch. 

Consonant digraphs CH, GH, PH, SH, & TH with illustrations (a chair & church, ghost & laugh, phone & graph, shower & cash, teeth, etc.) with advice to check the page for the sounds they make.

It also makes a /k/ sound in words of Greek origin: character, Christian, chorus, chronological.

Sometimes it has the /ʃ/ (‘sh’) sound in words of French origin like champagne or machine.

   2.  GH is pronounced /g/ at the beginning of words like ghost. At the end of words it is silent (see below) or makes the /f/ sound: cough, enough, laugh, rough, tough.(The last two are pronounced 'ruff' & 'tuff.' See also PH.)

It is silent in bought, caught, daughter, height, high, light, might, right, sigh, sight, though, and thought (etc.).

   3.  PH makes the sound of /f/: graph, phone, phonics.(The ending sound is exactly the same in graph, half, laugh, and staff.)

   4.  SH makes the /ʃ/ sound: cash, fashion, foolish, rash, shame, shelter, should, shower, trash, wash.

See also TION below.

   5.  TH makes 2 related sounds: /θ/ (voiceless): anything, author, bath, breath, cloth, health, teeth, nothing

or /ð/ (voiced): breathe, brother, clothing, father, mother, mouth, southern, teethe, than, that, the, their, them, then, there, these, they, this, those, though, thus, together, weather.

TION-- Not a true digraph, this common word ending (that often converts verbs into nouns) sounds like ‘shun:’ combination, inflammation, information, nation, relationship.

   6.  WH makes the sound of /hw/: what, when, where, which, why (or an /h/ sound in who or whole.)

KN, NG, & QU

   7.  KN makes the sound of /n/: knee, knew ( pronounced just like 'new'), knife, knight, or know (which sounds exactly like 'no'.)

   8.  NG makes the /ŋ/ sound: bang, king, long, lung, ring, sing.

   9.  QU makes the sound of /kw/: quality, question, quick, quiet.

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Did you know these letters are silent in English? The 'b' in lamb, thumb (both pictured), etc. The 'h' in 'heir, hour, etc., the 'k' in knife, knock, etc. (a knife & an hourglass pictured.)

ESL Phonics lists the basic sounds of each letter, with examples.

'English Vowels can have several sounds. Short vowels... sound like...' A (with an apple), E (& an elephant), I (insect), O (octopus) & U (umbrella.) Then text & pictures for long vowels.

Learn the basic rules to recognize which sounds English vowels will make in different words.

Can You Pronounce These Words with OU? /aʊ/: house, mountain (pictured)+; /ɔː/: bought, cough, etc.; long O (/oʊ/): dough (pictured)+, & short U (/ʌ/): country, double, (pic: double cone & ‘x2’) +

Learn the sounds different vowel digraphs (like ai, au, ea, oo, or ou) make.

They all can help you pronounce what you read-- or spell what you can say.

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