Unlike many languages that have a one-to-one sound/spelling correspondence, English pronunciation is notoriously difficult. There aren’t a lot of pronunciation rules for language learners to follow, and often it’s just a matter of hearing a word and memorizing how it sounds.
Sometimes, however, students can catch a break with certain letters or sounds that actually follow a set of pronunciation rules. Such is the case with the letters G and C!
From great to gym to cake to city, the letters G and C can be pronounced as a “hard” or “soft” sound. It often depends on the position of the letter in a word and on the letter that follows it.
Pronunciation Rules for G & C
When G or C is followed by E, I, or Y, the sound is soft.
When G or C is followed by A, O, or U, the sound is hard.
When G or C is followed by a consonant, the sound is hard.
When G or C is doubled, the sound is hard.
When a word ends in G or C (or CK), the sound is hard.
When a word ends in G or C + E, the sound is soft.
Some common words do not follow the rules for hard and soft G, such as begin, get, and give.
Some words with a double C have a hard sound followed by a soft sound, such as accent, acceptable, and vaccine.
When G is followed by H, it is sometimes pronounced as /f/, such as cough, laugh, and enough. Other times it is silent, such as high, though, and bought.
When C is followed by H, it is pronounced as /tʃ/, such as cheese, watch, and church.
When a word ends in N + G, it is pronounced /ŋ/, such as sing, bring, and running.