In this lesson and video we're looking at the different ways to spell the "f" sound and the rules and history behind it.

Watch the video below &/ or read on.

Read these words out loud:

fame, infant, stuff, scoff, photo, elephant, rough, tough

All have the "f" sound at the beginning, middle or end but all spelt 4 different ways.

1. We have the standard F at the beginning, middle and end of words:
  • find, famous, friend, 
  • infant, lift, affair,
  • half, reef, proof

  • f is  quite a strong sound compared with v.
    but be careful with off and of (of is a softer v sound - "ov")

    2. Let's look at the double f endings in words: off, staff, stuff, sniff, Jeff, cuff, buff, huff, cliff, fluff, scoff, snuff, puff, scuff, gruff, muff... 
    Do you know why there's a double f at the end of these words?

    The clue is in the vowel sound. Read them again.
    All end in double f because they have a short vowel sound before the f.

    3. Do you know why we have the ph letter pattern for the 'f' sound? 

    Most words spelt with ph are from Ancient Greek. We leave this strange spelling as it is because we can see the history of the word.  

    We can have ph at the beginning, middle and end of words:
  • photo, phone, pharmacy, physical, Philip,  
  • alphabet, elephant, dolphin, headphones, 
  • graph, triumph...

  • But sulphur with a ph is standard in British English and sulfur with a f is used in American English.

    4. Let's look at words with the -ugh- patterns that are pronounced "f" such as: rough, cough, enough, trough, tough, laugh.

    Do you know why we have such a strange letter pattern and why some of these -gh- words are pronounced with an f and some are silent?
    Again it all comes down to the history and origins of the words.

    -gh- came about because of French influence after they invaded us in 1066.

    The scribes messed around with our spelling because they couldn't spell the original hard 'h' sound as in the Scottish "loch" so added a g to the h - night, bright, light... For more on the -gh- pattern click here

    But then the gh became silent or became an "f" sound. 
    But some of the -ugh- words with the "f" sound were originally pronounced with an 'f' in some northern dialects of that time.

    Knowing why spelling is the way it is a great way of learning and improving spelling and stops you getting all frustrated with it. 

     If you're interested in knowing more about why spelling is the way it is then check out my ebook The Reasons Why English Spelling is so Weird and Wonderful in the shop.

    Try the word search below. If you can't see it or doesn't load, click on the link Words With The f Sound Word Search

    Words With The f Sound