Accent's Way Magazine

#97

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The H in English (how to pronounce, silent H and more)

In this lesson I’ll be talking about the H in American English.
You see, I notice that people DROP the H when it shouldn’t be dropped, PRONOUNCE the H when it shouldn’t be pronounced and I that people don’t even KNOW that sometimes they don’t HAVE to pronounce the H (it really depends on the position of the word in the sentence)…

So.. Watch the video to unravel the mystery of the H in American English.

TRANSCRIPT

Hey guys, it’s Hadar. And this is the Accent’s Way. Today, we are going to talk about the elusive sound, the American H, also known as ‘hhh’. In this video, we’re going to talk about how to pronounce it, when to use it, when not to use it, when you can drop it, and what you’re supposed to do around it. Is it ‘a hotel’ or ‘an hotel’? The question of all questions.

The H sound is sort of like a whisper: you push air out through the vocal cords. And the friction of the air passing between the vocal chords is the H sound. It’s the same sound you make when you want to warm your hand on a cold winter day.

It’s the same sound you’re making when you’re whispering.

I just whispered the word ‘hello’ and everything just sounded like one big H. The beginning part is the H – ‘Hello’. Now, look, you don’t need to breathe in and use all the air that you have in your body to say the H sound. “Hello”. You’ll be exhausted after two seconds. But you do want to use a little bit of air that is already here in the lungs.

Hello. Hello. Hi. Start with a whisper. Hi. Hello. Here. Home. House.

Now, if you don’t pronounce the H, then different words may sound the same. For example: hair – air. hate – ate. hi – I. So for example, if your waiter at your favorite restaurant comes up to you and says, “Hey, did you try the new salad?” And you’re like, “Oh, I ate it”, then he’ll think that you ate it already, but you actually meant to say that you hate it. Okay? So, don’t drop the H.

But it gets tricky because sometimes you have to drop the H. There are some words that the H is there in the spelling, but it’s absolutely not pronounced. And here are the words.

‘hour’: it’s not ‘ha-w’r’. And yes, it sounds just like ‘our’, as in ‘our company’. ‘hour’.

‘honest’: not ‘haa-n’st’.

‘honor’ as in ‘your honor’. ‘aa-n’r’ – not ‘haa-n’r’.

‘heir’: and I don’t mean the air we breathe or the hair on my head. I mean the heir to the throne.

‘herbs’. As in, “I’d like an herbal tea, please.”

Just memorize those words that don’t begin with an H, although there is an H in the spelling, and you’ll be fine. So again: honor, honest, hour, heir, herbs.

Now, to make it a little more confusing – because if we can, why not? There are some words that have an H of the beginning, but the H can be dropped, depending if this word is stressed or unstressed. I’m talking about function words. Function words are all those small words that connect content words, the big words – the nouns and adjectives and adverbs.

Function words are words like: ‘on’ and ‘at’, am, is, are, the, this, that, those, him, you do. These are all function words. Now, the function words ‘he’, ‘him’, ‘her’ and ‘his’ are pronounced differently, depending whether they’re stressed or unstressed. If they’re stressed, the H is absolutely pronounced. If they’re not stressed, the H drops.

So, for example, if someone were to ask me, “Hey, whose coat is this?” I would say, “It’s his.” ‘his’. I’m stressing the word ‘his’, so I’m pronouncing the H. It’s his. Now, if I’m just using it in a sentence in an unstressed position, for example, “It’s [h]is coat”, then the H is dropped.

Let’s take the word ‘he’. “He thought it would be a really good idea for us to go out tonight.” “Did he really think it through?” Notice that the first ‘he’ was pronounced with an H – he, he. Now, because there is a high ‘ee’ right after, you really hear the air passing between the tongue and the upper palate. ‘he’, ‘he’. I cannot say ‘ee thought’. No, I have to pronounce the H here. “He thought it would be a really good idea for us to go out tonight.” “Did [h]e really think it through?” ‘di-dee’, ‘di-dee’. Here the ‘he’ is unstressed and I dropped the H – ‘di-dee’, connected it to the previous word. ‘di-dee’, ‘di-dee’.

“It’s her choice”. “It’s her choice”. I’m stressing the word ‘her’, and therefore, I’m pronouncing the H. But, in the sentence “You should tell her that”, ‘tell her that’: I’m dropping the H and it just sounds like the ER ending – ‘teller’. “You should tell her that.”

The last thing I want to discuss is whether we should use ‘a’ or ‘an’ before a word that begins with an H. So, if the H is pronounced, the H is still considered to be a consonant. Although a lot of you may find it hard to believe, but it is a consonant. Which means it should have the article ‘a’ before it. A house, not ‘an house’. A hospital, not ‘an hospital’. And ‘a hotel’.

If the H is silent and drop, then it should be proceeded with ‘an’: an hour, an honest person, and ‘it’s an honor’. Okay? That’s it.

Thank you so much for watching. Please let me know in the comments below if you are struggling with the H. And if you are, let me know what language you speak. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel. And if you want to get the full list of words where the H is not pronounced, click on the link right below this video.

Have a wonderful week. And I will see you next week in the next video. Bye.


The InFluency Podcast
The InFluency Podcast
208. How to pronounce the H and Silent H
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Let’s Practice!
Here’s a list of words that have the letter ‘h’, but there is no H consonant sound (silent H)

Honest
Honor
Hour
Heir
herbs/herbal

‘Gh’ – no H sound
Ghost
Ghastly
Ghetto

‘Rh’ no H sound
Rhythm
Rhinoceros
Rhyme

‘Xh’ – no H sound
Exhausted
Exhibition
Exhaust
Rhubarb

Vehicle

In the following words the H drops when the word is NOT stressed:
He
His
Him
Her

Do you have more words in mind with silent H?
Let me know in the comments below!

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5 Responses

  1. Very useful… Suddenly I can understand ur way of teaching….
    I want to speak with native speaker…
    Could u help me ? Has any way to interact with native speakers?

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