back to course outline

w and wh                       

In most accents of English, including RP, most* words spelled 'wh-' are pronounced as if they were simply spelled 'w-'. Thus whale and wail are homophones (pronounced exactly the same), as are which and witch, were and whirr, whine and wine, wheel and weal:

A few accents retain the old unvoiced w in wh- words, however - in many parts of Scotland and Ireland, and sporadically in North America, these word-pairs are not homophones, and 'wh-' is unvoiced. This can be written . Some writers use a reversed w: :


*In words spelled 'who-', on the other hand, it is the w which is dropped in all accents of English:
who, whom, whose
and pairs of word such as whole-hole and whoop-hoop are homophones:
Back to top
back to course outline back to Phonetics back to Pétur Knútsson's home page

If you have any questions mail me at