What are some words in English that are not pronounced the way they look?

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rmhope eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Many words in English are pronounced differently than they would be if they were pronounced according to the letters that appear in the word. This may be the result of letters that were once voiced but have now become silent or the result of importing words from foreign languages. One of the most prevalent patterns in the first category is the "ght" pattern at the end of words such as night, fight, light, sought, bought, fought, thought, caught, and brought. The /gh/ sound was once pronounced as a guttural sound in the back of the throat, but over the years the sound was lost, though the letters remained in the spellings. Sometimes the /gh/ sound changed to an /f/ sound, such as in laugh, tough, rough, and cough. Spellings can get even more confusing when the "gh" spelling is combined with a variant spelling of the long /a/ sound, "ei," resulting in words such as eight, freight, and weight.

Some words that came to English with their French spellings and pronunciations also contain silent letters and letter combinations that are pronounced differently from standard English pronunciations. Words in this category include tableaux, beau, hors d'oeuvre, Bearnaise, and plateau.

Some words begin with silent letters such as gnu, gnat, knee, knife, mnemonic, pneumonia, write, and psalm. 

Other words that contain internal silent letters are doubt, debt, aisle, and muscle.

These are just some of the words in English that are not pronounced the way they are spelled.