View Full Version : ough

26-11-2008, 00:17
Hi all,
I was translating an article on some curiosities of the English language and came across this observation:
"Some students of English visibly cringe approaching the "ough" combination, which is pronounced five different ways".
I haven't yet cringed, but now I think that maybe I should have, for even after looong reflection I've only been able to come up with four: as it's pronounced in words THOUGHT, SLOUGH, ROUGH and HOUGH. I'm wondering if anybody could introduce me to the fifth possible way.
Thanks in advance

26-11-2008, 01:59
Hi there Hazelnut,

its an interesting task that you've set for yourself :)

OK, the word sound you're looking for is "off", examples being "cough" and "trough".

Be careful with some of the others - I'm not 100% certain but I think hough you will only see as a surname.

Slough is another complicated one - it has three pronunciations for the same spelling! (there are differences between the US and UK) - the sounds are like: sluff, slew, slow, although the final one is most commonly seen as the name of a large town in England.

see: slough - definition of slough by the Free Online Dictionary, Thesaurus and Encyclopedia. (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/slough) for more of an explanation (if you click on the loudspeaker symbol on the webpage, you'll hear the word spoken)

I'm not sure if you're just translating or you need to teach too. You might be interested in these three useful links:


Spelling ough and augh words (http://www.spellzone.co.uk/unit17/quest2_p3-4/questionpage1.html)

Absolutely Ridiculous English Spelling-Lesson 1 (http://www.say-it-in-english.com/SpellHome.html)

The powerpoint is a useful teaching aid and the last link has a neat explanation of why English is such a difficult language to learn!

Good luck!

26-11-2008, 06:26
I don't think that it is so useful to think in the direction of how 'ough' sounds. My opinion is that you should just learn each word individually. A general pattern will form in your mind eventually and it will be similar to the pattern that native speakers have. There is not a solid pattern of English spelling and pronunciation.
Three words that I teach my students are
Though - long 'O' like in 'oh'
Through - like in 'shoe'
Thought - like 'aw' like in awful

I teach them because they are common words and at a glance they look very similar. It also demonstrates that a lot of words need to be learned individually.
Learn them at a glance and don't think so much about them.