How to pronounce w in wrong, write, wrestling, etc.

How to pronounce w in wrong, write, wrestling, etc.

Image by skeeze from Pixabay

I have previously discussed the fact that the letter p is often silent in English, see here, and that this causes quite some problems with non-native speakers. Today, I want to discuss the letter w, which is also often silent. For example, the w is not pronounced in any of the following words (click to listen to the pronunciation)

wrong, wrinkle, wry, wreck, wrench, wrist, wreath, write, wrestling.

Interestingly, I do not remember being taught in school that the w is silent in these and many other words. When you compare both variants (with and without w), you will probably notice that the silent-w version is actually easier to pronounce.

A possible explanation for the prevalence of this mistake is that pronouncing the w makes the words sound more English to non-native ears. It also seems to distinguish otherwise identically pronounced words such as write and right or wrap and rap. However, it is still not right.

A great example for an incorrect pronunciation of wrestling is this video:

A silent w also appears in several brand names, including Wrangler and Wrigley’s (for the pronunciation of “ey” see this post). You may also remember the film Swordfish (the German title is Passwort Swordfish)? At least among my friends, almost everybody mispronounced swordfish by not noticing that the w is silent. The same applies to the word sword itself. The German movie trailer below includes a completely wrong pronunciation of swordfish (roughly given by [svɜːdfɪʃ]) after around 45 seconds:

Other examples include answer, whole, two, and owing.


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