10 words that don’t sound how they’re spelled

Pronunciation is made harder by one common frustration amongst language learners…

Lots of English words do not sound like how they are spelt!

This is especially true with many extremely old words that have survived in English since Anglo-Saxon times. Women, brother and daughter are good examples. If you don’t connect how these words sound to how they’re spelt, you’ll struggle to write and vocalise a large chunk of English words, leaving critical gaps in your vocabulary.

Here are 10 more words from the Oxford 3000 whose spelling gives little clue to their pronunciation. Do you know how to say them? Click on each word to see if you are right!*

  1. ally
  2. blood
  3. half
  4. honest
  5. island
  6. frighten
  7. iron
  8. scheme
  9. vision
  10. wounded

Tip: Keep a list of words you usually misspell. Use the look, cover, write, compare method to help you learn them:

  1. Look at the word.
  2. Cover it with your hand.
  3. Write the word.
  4. Compare it to the original.

It can take a long time to learn how to spell tricky words like these. There’s no substitute for time spent revising! Spend some time every day spelling words that you’re struggling with.

What tips or tricks do you use to learn how to spell new words? Which words do you consistently struggle to spell or pronounce? Let us know in the comments below!

*This link will take you to the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary website. You can check your pronunciation of the target vocabulary by listening to the examples available.


Author: Oxford University Press ELT

Every year we help millions of people around the world to learn English. As a department of the University of Oxford, we further the University’s objective of excellence in education by publishing proven and tested language learning books, eBooks, learning materials, and educational technologies.

3 thoughts

  1. I find this bit on spelling and pronunciation a useful addition to an earlier topic, “Pronunciation and meaning’, both of which are helpful in a course of pronunciation with students. Thank you.

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