Unit 5.1

Letter: h


The letter h can represent two sounds, depending on the article preceding it.


The sound of the words starting with h depend if it goes after ‘a’ or ‘an’.

Form Phonology
A + h- /h/
An + h- silent


  • A + h words:
    • a history book;
    • a happy couple;
    • a hamburger.
  • An + h words:
    • an hour;
    • an honest person;
    • an honour.


-When h is a conosonant sound, it is pronounced as an aspiration (/h/) and it goes with the article ‘a’ before.

-When h is a vowel sound means that h is not sounded, so the correspondent article is ‘an’. This normally happens when we are talking about words with French origins.

There are times when h is silent with no need to have the article before. There are no exact rules to distinguish in which words h is silent and in which ones is not, in fact, it does not even matter in which position the letter is inside the word. The only way to notice it is by learning vocabulary along with its pronunciation.

Some words are difficult for English speakers, since they pronounce it as voiced:

  • hour, honour, honest, heir – all of them pronounced as if they would start with the vowel only;
  • Thai, vehicle, ghost – all of them pronounced as if they would not have the h in the middle of the word;
  • Hannah –  it is complicated because the first h sounds, though not the last one.


External link to Letter: h exercises (1210).