Pronunciation of words containing “ough/augh”

Introduction

The letter combination ‘ough’ (and I’ll include ‘augh’ here also) has a variety of sounds:

  • AFT (draught)(as in draft, craft)
  • AW (cough, caught, trough, sought)(as in saw)
  • O (though, thorough)(as in no go)
  • OO (through, slough)(as in too, boo)
  • OW (bough, slough)(rhymes with how, now)
  • UFF (rough, tough, enough, slough)(as in stuff)

Sample Words

AFT (as in ‘draft’)

  • Draught

AW Sound (as in ‘saw’)

  • Bought
  • Brought
  • Caught
  • Cough
  • Distraught
  • Fought
  • Fraught
  • Onslaught
  • Overwrought
  • Sought
  • Taught
  • Trough
  • Wrought

O Sound (as in ‘go’)

  • Although
  • Borough
  • Furlough
  • Though
  • Thorough

OO Sound (as in too, boo)

  • Slough (aka slew)
  • Through (aka thru)

OW Sound (as in how now)

  • Bough
  • Slough

UFF Sound (as in ‘stuff’)

  • Enough
  • Rough
  • Slough
  • Tough

Reading and Pronunciation Practice

Hi. I was just sitting here swinging in an old tire hanging from the bough of this tree when a thought hit me.  Cough, cough! No, I haven’t caught a cold. I just have a dry throat. I need to drink a draught of ale. Ah, that was good. Now, where was I? I lost my train of thought. Hm, bough, cough, draught, thought,… oh, yes! I was feeling a little naughty and wanted to subject you, um, I mean to introduce you to the letter combinations ‘augh’ and ‘ough’, both of which have been known to render students fraught with confusion and frustration. Would you like to be taught about these words? I thought so.

Just when you thought the battles had all been fought, the road to learning English was getting less rough, the mastery of vocabulary that you sought was at hand, the dark tunnel you were passing through (also written thru) was about to open up into the light of day,… you unceremoniously encounter a tough letter combination like ‘ough’. Learning to pronounce this letter grouping is easy enough. It has many different sounds: AFT (as in draft), AW (as in straw), O (as in go), OW (as in how), OO (as in too), and UFF (as in stuff) . The trick is knowing WHEN to use each sound.

The problem is that there is a slough (also written slew) of ways to pronounce it. There is no logic — no rhyme or reason — to these different pronunciations. You must simply pull this slough of words from the trough of English vocabulary and memorize each one as thoroughly as you can. It won’t be easy though. I brought you this exercise so you can slough off your fear and stand confident and proud. Here, have some nougat as a reward for your hard-fought fight to master these words. I ought to let you know that this virtual nougat was bought for naught.

Now don’t get overwrought worrying about these pronunciations, but you really should master this onslaught of useful words I have given you.

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