Silent H

Silent < h > is very common in spoken English. There are two types of silent < h >:

1. Words that always contain silent < h >
2. Words that start with silent < h > in connected speech.

Before we look at these two groups, it’s worth noting that in many regional accents of English, people never say /h/ – for these speakers, every < h > is silent.

1. Common words that always contain silent < h >

HONOUR /ˈɒnə/
HOUR /ˈaʊə/
HEIR /ɛː/
VEHICLE /ˈviːɪk(ə)l/
GHOST /gəʊst/
RHINOCEROS /rʌɪˈnɒsərəs/
RHYTHM /ˈrɪð(ə)m/
EXHAUST /ɪgˈzɔːst/
WHAT /wɒt/
WHY /wʌɪ/

2. Words that start with silent < h > in connected speech:

Function words that start with < h > such as HE, HER, HAVE, HIM tend to lose the /h/ if the word is unstressed and doesn’t appear at the beginning or end of the sentence/unit:

What have you done?
That’s her uncle.
Have you seen him today?
Ask if he’s coming for lunch.

Dropping these < h > is typical of all native English speakers, regardless of where they are from. However, in slow speech, or if the word is stressed, the /h/ will be pronounced:


The Sound of English

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