ough pronunciation introduction

Welcome to our comprehensive guide on pronouncing the “ough” sound in English! This versatile combination of letters can be pronounced in various ways, making it a challenge for English learners. In this guide, we’ll explore the different pronunciations of “ough” and provide tips and exercises to help you master this tricky sound.

Diagram illustrating the pronunciation of 'ough' with common words like tough, though, through, thought, and cough around the centre

What is the ‘ough’ Sound?

What’s the deal with the ‘ough’ sound in English? It’s one of those quirky combos that can really trip you up because it doesn’t have a single pronunciation. Depending on the word, it can sound like ‘uff’ (as in ‘tough’), ‘oh’ (as in ‘though’), ‘aw’ (as in ‘thought’), or even ‘ow’ (as in ‘bough’). It’s like the English language decided to throw us a curveball just for fun! So, let’s dive in and untangle this ‘ough’ mess together.

The ‘ough’ sound is found in many English words, but its pronunciation can vary significantly depending on the word. In some cases, it is pronounced as [ɔː], [ʌf], [əʊ], or [ʌt].

 

Understanding these variations is key to pronouncing ‘ough’ correctly.

"What is the ‘ough’ Sound?" with the text "The ‘ough’ sound is found in many English words, but its pronunciation can vary significantly depending on the word." displayed in a green box on a purple background.'
Picture explaining the pronunciation variations of the 'ough' sound in English. The image includes examples such as 'tough' (uff), 'though' (oh), 'thought' (aw), and 'bough' (ow). The title reads 'What is the ‘ough’ Sound?' with a description below it. A hot tip at the bottom mentions other pronunciations, stating: 'In some cases, it is pronounced as [ɔː], [ʌf], [əʊ], or [aʊ].

Pronunciation Guide

The ‘ough combination in English can be pronounced in several different ways. Here are some examples of each pronunciation.

Sound 1 – /ɔː/

This sound (/ɔː/) rhymes with the ‘awe’ in awesome, and ‘caught’.

  • bought
    (the past tense and past participle of the verb buy)
  • brought
    (the past tense and past participle of the verb bring)
  • fought
    (the past tense and past participle of the verb fight)
  • ought
    (a modal verb)
  • sought
    (the past tense and past participle of the verb seek)
  • thought
    (an idea or opinion formed in the mind)
  • wrought
    (shaped or crafted, often through work).
Graphic explaining the pronunciation of the /ɔː/ sound with examples and rhyming words. The words 'bought, brought, fought, ought, sought, thought, wrought' are shown with a pronunciation tip indicating they sound like 'awe' and rhyme with 'caught'. The image includes illustrations of a lightbulb over a brain, hands exchanging items, and people boxing and carrying a package. A hot tip suggests making rhymes, like 'I bought what I ought, we fought and sought, peace was wrought.

Sound 2 – /oʊ/

This sound (/oʊ/) rhymes with the ‘no’ and ‘slow’.

  • although
    (a conjunction)
  • furlough
    (permission to be absent from work)
  • dough
    (a mixture of flour and water)
  • thoroughAmerican English pronunciation only
    (complete and detailed)
  • though
    (a conjunction and an adverb)
Graphic explaining the pronunciation of the /oʊ/ sound with examples and rhyming words. The words 'although, dough, furlough, thorough, though' are shown with pronunciation tips indicating they sound like 'no' and rhyme with 'slow'. The image includes illustrations of an office desk with an 'Out of Office' sign, a yin-yang symbol, a directional signpost, and a chef holding a pizza. A hot tip suggests making rhymes, such as 'Although he made the dough, he took a furlough, though.

Sound 3 – /ʌf/

This sound (/ʌf/) rhymes with ‘stuff’ and ‘bluff’.

  • enough
    (as much or as many as required; sufficient)
  • rough
    (uneven, harsh, or difficult)
  • tough
    (strong or difficult to deal with)
Graphic explaining the pronunciation of the /ʌf/ sound with examples and rhyming words. The words 'enough, rough, tough' are shown with pronunciation tips indicating they sound like 'stuff' and rhyme with 'bluff'. The image includes illustrations of a thumbs-up, a person in a storm with lightning, and a muscular character flexing. A hot tip suggests making rhymes, such as 'He's rough and he's tough. He huffs and puffs because he's not strong enough.

Sound 4 – /aʊ/

This sound /aʊ/ rhymes with ‘how’ and ‘now’.

  • bough
    (a main branch of a tree)
  • drought
    (a shortage of water)
  • plough
    (a large farming tool)
  • slough
    (a swamp, or muddy area)
Graphic explaining the pronunciation of the /aʊ/ sound with examples and rhyming words. The words 'bough, drought, plough, slough' are shown with pronunciation tips indicating they sound like 'now' and rhyme with 'how'. The image includes illustrations of a tree, a pond, a tractor ploughing a field, and a drought symbol. A hot tip suggests making rhymes, such as 'Through drought and slough, we plough beneath the tree's old bough.

This sound /aʊ/ rhymes with ‘how’ and ‘now’.

  • bough
    (a main branch of a tree)
  • drought
    (a shortage of water)
  • plough
    (a large farming tool)
  • slough
    (a swamp, or muddy area)

Sound 5 -/ɒf/

This sound (/ɒf/) rhymes with ‘off’ and ‘scoff’.

  • cough
    (sudden, noisy expulsion of air from the mouth)
  • trough
    (a long, narrow container for animals)
Graphic explaining the pronunciation of the /ɒf/ sound with examples and rhyming words. The words 'cough' and 'trough' are shown with pronunciation tips indicating they sound like 'off' and rhyme with 'scoff'. The image includes illustrations of a person coughing and a wooden trough filled with water. A hot tip suggests making rhymes, such as 'The horse began to cough whilst drinking from the trough.

Sound 6 – /uː/

This sound (/uː/) rhymes with ’to’ and ‘you’.

  • through
    (moving in one side and out of the other side)
  • throughout
    (in every part of)
Graphic explaining the pronunciation of the /uː/ sound with examples and rhyming words. The words 'through' and 'throughout' are shown with pronunciation tips indicating they rhyme with 'to' and 'you.' The image includes illustrations of a globe with scattered points and an arrow passing through a sphere. A hot tip suggests making rhymes, such as 'We walked through, exploring throughout.

Sound 7 – /ə/

This sound (/ə/) sounds like the ‘u’ in ‘up’ and ‘cup’.

  • borough
    (a town, district, or an administrative division within a city)
  • thorough
    (complete with great attention to detail)
Graphic explaining the pronunciation of the /ə/ sound with examples and rhyming words. The words 'borough' and 'thorough' are shown with pronunciation tips indicating they sound like the 'u' in 'up' and 'cup.' The image includes illustrations of a colorful city borough and a magnifying glass over a file marked 'unsolved.' A hot tip suggests making rhymes, such as 'In the quiet borough, we did a search so thorough.

sound 8 – /ʌp/

This sound (/ʌp/) sounds like the end of makeup and pickup.

  • hiccough
    (involuntary spasm of the diaphragm causing a sudden intake of breath)
Graphic explaining the pronunciation of the /ʌp/ sound with examples and rhyming words. The word 'hiccough' is shown, which is often spelled 'hiccup,' with pronunciation tips indicating it ends like 'makeup' and 'pickup.' The image includes an illustration of a person experiencing hiccups with 'hic' text around them. A hot tip suggests making rhymes, such as 'Despite a sudden hiccough, she fixed her makeup in the pickup.

English can be tricky with all these variations, but knowing these can help with pronunciation!

tips for pronunciation

Mastering the pronunciation of the “ough” sound in English can be tricky due to its multiple variations. To help you navigate these complexities, here are some general tips:

  • Practice each pronunciation individually, focusing on the mouth and tongue positions required for each sound.
Tips for pronunciation: Practice each pronunciation individually, focusing on the mouth and tongue positions required for each sound, with an illustration of a mouth and tongue.
  • Listen to native speakers as much as you can and copy their pronunciation to develop a natural accent.
Tips for pronunciation: Listen to native speakers and copy their pronunciation to develop a natural accent. Includes flags of Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Australia, with an ear icon in the centre
  • Use tongue twisters and word drills to improve your fluency and accuracy.
"Tips for pronunciation: Use tongue twisters and word drills to improve your fluency and accuracy. Image shows a cartoon character with a twisted tongue saying 'I thought it through, though it was tough,' illustrating the use of 'ough' words in a tongue twister."
  • Listen to native speakers and repeat after them. Use online resources like YouTube or language learning apps.
Tips for pronunciation: Listen to native speakers and repeat after them. Use online resources like YouTube or language learning apps. Image shows a cartoon character in an England flag shirt demonstrating pronunciation, with a speech bubble saying 'Though the night was rough, she felt strong enough,' and another character attempting to repeat.
  • Play games – Write ‘ough’ words on cards and lay them face down. Flip 2 cards each turn. Keep pairs with matching ‘ough’ sounds. The most pairs wins.
Tips for pronunciation: Play games with 'ough' words. Write 'ough' words on cards and lay them face down. Flip 2 cards each turn. Keep pairs with matching 'ough' sounds. The most pairs wins. Image shows a grid of face-down cards with two cards flipped over, revealing the words 'cough' and 'trough' with green check marks.
  • Record your pronunciation and compare it with native speakers.
Tips for pronunciation: Record your pronunciation and compare it with native speakers. Image shows a cartoon character holding a microphone, a film camera icon, and the text 'Record your pronunciation and compare it with native speakers'.
  • Use the ‘ough’ words in full sentences to get comfortable with their pronunciation in context.
Tips for pronunciation: Use the 'ough' words in full sentences to get comfortable with their pronunciation in context. Image shows a person at a table saying 'This steak is a bit tough,' and another person on a couch with a baby saying 'He never sleeps through the night,' illustrating the use of 'ough' words in sentences.
  • Regular practice will help reinforce the different sounds and make them more natural to pronounce.
Tips for pronunciation: Regular practice will help reinforce the different sounds and make them more natural to pronounce. Image shows a weekly calendar for 'ough' pronunciation practice with check marks on each day, indicating consistent practice.
  • Familiarise yourself with and learn the main pronunciations of ‘ough’.
Tips for pronunciation: Familiarise yourself with and learn the main pronunciations of 'ough'. Image shows different pronunciations including 'aw' as in 'thought', 'oo' as in 'through', 'off' as in 'cough', 'ow' as in 'bough', 'oh' as in 'though', and 'uff' as in 'rough'.

By practicing these tips, you can master the various pronunciations of “ough” in English! Here’s a quick video of the tips if you want a quick re-cap

Fun Exercises to Master ‘OUGH’ Pronunciation

Now that you’ve learned about the various ways to pronounce the tricky “ough” sound, it’s time to put your skills to the test with some fun exercises. These activities will help reinforce what you’ve learned and make those pronunciations feel more natural. Ready to dive in? Let’s make “ough” words a breeze to say!

Firstly, check out this listen and repeat video.

conclusion

Mastering the “ough” sound in English pronunciation may take time and practice, but with dedication and the right techniques, you can achieve fluency. Use this guide as a resource to enhance your pronunciation skills and confidently navigate words with the “ough” sound in English.

additional resources

Thank you for exploring our guide on mastering the pronunciation of ‘ough’ words in English! We hope you found the tips and examples helpful.

 

For more pronunciation tips and tricks, be sure to visit our other pages:

 

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