Lesson on Pronunciation and
spelling of words with -sc

Oh no they did not….. Oops! I hope someone didn’t get fired.

It seems Miss Spell (ha ha, get it?) was at work again… this time road workers misspelled a word in front of an elementary school in Scotland. Sadly, the word they misspelled was “school,” painting the pavement with the word “sckool” instead.

Before we get started, if you’re worried about making mistakes in English, don’t. Even those of us who speak English as our first language make basic mistakes too! Spelling is tricky in English. 

Why?

For one, there can be many different spellings for a single letter or letter combinations

Look at the words cell  and call.  A single letter—the "c" —is pronounced differently in these two words:  the "c" in cell  has an "s" sound while the "c" in call  has a "k" sound.

Letter combinations also can have many different sounds.  Take the letters "ch":

  • chess (the "ch" has a "ch" sound)
  • chemistry (the "ch" has a "k" sound)
  • champagne (the "ch" has a "sh" sound)


Spelling and pronunciation can also be difficult in English because there are silent letters . For example, the "h" is silent in the words "who" and "what."  The "s" is silent in "island."

There are also long and short vowels in English (the "a" in the word "made" is a long vowel while the "a" in the word "mad" is a short vowel).

If that's not enough, there are also many homonyms in English where two or more words each have the same spelling or pronunciation but have different meanings. Look at this homonym example:  to, too, two.  We have the same pronunciation but three different spellings and meanings. 

You may have to memorize a lot of words because there are many different ways of representing the same sound. Sorry! Just remember that there are challenges in every language and even mother-tongue speakers had to learn how to spell these English words too!


Spelling and pronunciation of -sc letter combination

In this lesson, let's look at some combinations of letters with "sc" to help you avoid making spelling and pronunciation mistakes.

There are many different spelling rules (with exceptions to those general rules), but the following guidelines may help you with spelling and pronunciation when the letters “sc” are combined:


The letters 's together can represent two different sounds: [s] or [k]

sc” has the sound [s]:  

  • before certain vowels: “e” and “i(e.g., scientific, scenery)


"sc" can also have the [sh] sound before certain "i" or "h"*

  • before "i" (e.g., conscience, luscious, subconscious, consciousness, fascism)
  • before "h" (eschew, schilling, schlep, schmo, schmooze, schnapps, schnauzer, mensch)


Note: The British pronounce “schedule” with an [sh] rather than [sk] sound.


sc” has the sound [sk]: 

  • before these vowels: “a,” “o,” and “u (e.g., scare, scone, scum) 
  • before most consonants (e.g., scrape, scramble, scream)


Here are some more examples of "sc" pronunciation:

"sc" makes the sound [s]: (before “e” and certain “i”): 

  • scene
  • scent
  • science
  • sci-fi
  • conscientious
  • rescind
  • scissor
  • sciatic
  • discipline


"sc" makes the sound [sh]: (before certain “h” and certain “i”): 

  • schnitzel
  • schmuck
  • fascist 
  • unconscious
  • fascia


"sc" makes the sound [sk]: (“a,” “o,” and “u” and before most consonants)

  • scan
  • scary
  • scope
  • scorch
  • scuba
  • school
  • schedule
  • scream
  • scuba diving
  • disc


Ready to practice?

Take the short quiz below to practice and then leave a comment to practice your writing skills! Or is that writing sckills?!

1. Which of the following have an [sk] sound? (Select all the correct answers).

a.  fascist

b.  escape

c.  scoop

d.  conscientious


2. Which of the following have an [s] sound?  Select all the correct answers.

a.  sculpture

b.  miscellaneous

c.  scandal

d.  fascination

e.  scratch

f.  schizophrenia


3. Check the box with the appropriate sound for red text.

The thief escaped by scaling the wall.

a.  [s] sound

b.  [sk] sound

c.  [sh] sound


4. Check the box with the appropriate sound for the red text:

Science is not one of my favorite subjects.

a.  [s] sound

b.  [sk] sound

c.  [sh] sound


5. Check the box with the appropriate sound for the red text:

The politician had to leave office after the scandal.

a.  [s] sound

b.  [sk] sound

c.  [sh] sound


6. Check the box with the appropriate sound for the red text:

When I scratched number of my lottery ticket I almost fainted because I won $1,000!

a.  [s] sound

b.  [sk] sound

c.  [sh] sound


7. Check the box with the appropriate sound for the red text:

Last night I schmoozed with my boss and other managers at our holiday party.

a.  [s] sound

b.  [sk] sound

c.  [sh] sound


8. Check the box with the appropriate sound for the red text:

The museum exhibit has many beautiful paintings and sculptures.

a.  [s] sound

b.  [sk] sound

c.  [sh] sound


9. Check the box with the appropriate sound for the red text:

I can’t go to basketball practice tomorrow because I pulled a muscle.

a.  [s] sound

b.  [sk] sound

c.  [sh] sound


10. Check the box with the appropriate sound for the red text:

The road through the mountains has such beautiful scenery.

 a.  [s] sound

b.  [sk] sound

c.  [sh] sound



Quiz Answers

1.  b (escape), c (scoop)

2.  b (miscellaneous), d (fascination)

3.  b [sk] sound (escaped/scaling)

4.  a [s] sound (science)

5.  b [sk] sound (scandal)

6.  b [sk] sound (scratched)

7.  c [sh] sound (schmoozed)

8.  a [s] sound (sculptures)

9.  a [s] sound (muscle)

10. a [s] sound (scenery)


How did you do?  This requires memorization and practice so don't be discouraged.  In time, you will learn how to pronounce and write these words with practice.


> Spelling and pronunciation of words with -sc

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