How To: Pronounce OUGH in American English

Pronounce OUGH in American English

Learn how to pronounce the OUGH sound in American English. This video language lesson from Rachel's English provides a basic guide for pronunciations for ESL students. Say "ough".

The letters ough, when together in a word, are quite an interesting case in American English. Sometimes they make a vowel sound, sometimes a diphthong sound, and sometimes a vowel and consonant sound.

1. First, the 'oh' as in 'no' diphthong. For example, dough, thorough, although. I'm not going to go to the party, although my best friend is going to be there.

2. The next case is the 'ow' as in 'now' diphthong. Samples of this case: bough, plough, drought. I we lost our crop to the drought last year.

3. Next: the 'oo' as in 'boo' vowel. Through, throughout. I check my email throughout the day.

4. The 'aw' as in 'law' vowel sound. Thought, fought, bought. I bought it yesterday. Those are the four vowel or diphthong sounds. Now, there are three cases in which these four letters make a vowel sound plus a consonant sound.

5. In the first case it makes an 'ah' as in 'father' and F sound. Cough, trough. I have a terrible cough and a headache.

6. It can also make the 'uh' as in 'butter' with the F consonant sound: rough, enough. That is enough roughhousing!

7. And finally a word that is an alternate spelling, and as far as I know, this is the only case for this pronunciation of OUGH, and that is the word hiccough. It is more commonly spelled H-I-C-C-U-P, but it can be spelled with an OUGH. And then it takes the schwa the the P sound. Hiccough, hiccough. I've had the hiccoughs for three hours.

So, to recap the 7 ways these 4 letters can be pronounced when together in a word are: oh, ow, oo, aw, ah-ff, uh-ff, uh-pp. Though, bough, through, thought, cough, enough, hiccough.

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