Hi again teachers. Some of you may be on your holidays right now but I am sure that won’t stop you from reading this week’s article. Thank you for returning! And here is a ‘Jammy Dodger’! Can you say it? You can listen below:
In today’s article, we focus on quite a problematic letter in English. This is the letter ‘g’. When learning phonics (how letters sound), children may learn the letter ‘g’ as a /g/ sound, such as in ‘goat’ and ‘bag’. However, the letter ‘g’ can equally have a /ʤ/ sound. You may usually associate this sound to the letter ‘j’ like in ‘jam’, ‘jet’ and ‘jump’, but English words like ‘gem’, ‘gym’ and ‘geography’ also have a /ʤ/ sound. Therefore the /ʤ/ sound can be represented by two letters in English: ‘g’ and ‘j’. Whilst some words can be quite straightforward, like ‘Jammy Dodger’, for some students, the letter ‘g’ can cause problems and teachers may find their students pronouncing the letter ‘g’ as /ʤ/ when it should be /g/ and pronounce it as /g/ when it should be /ʤ/.
How Can We Know The Difference?
The question is how as teachers, when presenting new words to our students, can we know when the letter ‘g’ has a /g/ sound or a /ʤ/ sound? This is difficult, but not impossible. English is known as a phonetically irregular language. This means that the sounds do not always match the letters. This is why spelling can be difficult in English, even for native speakers. However, that said, if you show an unknown English word to native speakers, they can usually guess its pronunciation correctly. This shows that despite the irregularities of the English language, there are still patterns your students can follow. The key is to identify these patterns. In the next section we will look at a poster we produced to help you identify these spelling patterns to make a better guess as to when the letter ‘g‘ is a /g/ or a /ʤ/ sound.
Spelling Patterns for the Pronunciation of ‘g’
We have put together a useful chart (which you can download for free below) for teachers to refer to, titled ‘A Rough Guide to English Letter ‘g’’.
DOWNLOAD A Rough Guide to English Letter G
How to Use the Chart
Using the chart above, can you guess the pronunciation of the letter ‘g‘ in the words below? You can listen after to check your answers.
- digger (digg.er)
- badger (badg.er)
- brigadier (bri.ga.di.er)
- dialogue (di.a.logue)
- dangerous (dan.ger.ous)
- courage (cou.rage)
- lounge – lounger (loun.ger)
- gelato (gel.a.to)
- gerbil (ger.bil)
- glacier (gla.ci.er)
- gobbledygook (gob.ble.dy.gook)
- rectangle (rec.tang.le)
- sting – stinger (sting.er)
- congested (con.gest.ed)
- chewing gum
How many did you get right? If you got most of them right, well done!
Understanding the Chart
As you may notice by now, the chart organises the letter ‘g‘ according to different spelling patterns. According to these spelling patterns, ‘g’ can have either a /g/ or a /ʤ/ sound. On the opposite ends of the chart it shows spelling patterns where it is 100% a /g/ or a /ʤ/ sound respectively. As you move towards the centre, you reach spelling patterns where it can either have a /g/ or a /ʤ/ sound i.e. it becomes more difficult and less predictable.
However, if you look carefully at the spelling patterns you might also notice dots (.). These dots are important. They show the syllable boundary (the part between each part of the word i.e. ‘digging’ has two syllables ‘digg.ing’) and you can see this with the examples where we tried to include the spelling patterns in one, two and three syllable words. This can help where the spelling pattern could be a /g/ or /ʤ/ sound. Look at the words below. Can you say them? You can listen below to check your answers.
- a) gigabyte b) gigantic
- a) begin b) ginger c) raging
- a) finger b) singer c) ranger d) ginger
You will notice that some of the words have a /g/ sound and some words have a /ʤ/ sound. Another thing to think about is the word itself and its root form (the original form of a word i.e. the root form of the word ‘stranger‘ is ‘strange‘, the root form of the word ‘singing‘ is ‘sing‘. Not all words have a root form. Usually words with ‘er‘ or ‘ing‘ at the end have a root form).
Look Carefully at the Syllable Boundary
Focusing on the words above, in 1. we see the spelling pattern ‘gig’. In 1. a) it has a /g/ sound because the syllable boundary is as follows: ‘gig.a.byte‘. Notice the dot is after ‘gig.’. In 1. b) it has a /ʤ/ sound because the syllable boundary is after ‘gi.’ as follows: ‘gi.gan.tic’.
In 2. ‘gin’ can be /g/ or /ʤ/. In 2. a) ‘gin’ is the second syllable so the dot is before it as follows: ‘be.gin‘. As a result it usually has a /g/ sound. In 2. b) it is the first syllable, so the dot comes after: ‘gin.ger’. As a result it usually has a /ʤ/ sound.
Therefore, when using the chart (above), keep in mind the syllable boundary of any new words you teach with the letter ‘g’. Those dots are very important!
Look Carefully at the Root Word
In 2. c) ‘raging’, we must be careful because this does not follow the ‘gin.’ spelling pattern. It actually follows the ‘-age’ and ‘-ng’ spelling pattern where ‘-age’ has a /ʤ/ sound and ‘-ng’ is closer to a /g/ sound. The reason for this is because the root word of ‘raging’ is actually ‘rage’ and in English when we add letters to a root word the original pronunciation is usually the same. So, if it is a /ʤ/ in its root word then it will usually be a /ʤ/ sound when we add extra letters to it.
This takes us neatly onto 3. where we see a ‘-ng’ spelling pattern. In 3. a) ‘finger’ is closer to a /g/ because in English ‘-ng’ is usually closer to a /g/ sound. However, in 3. c) and d) the letter ‘g’ has a /ʤ/ sound. Why is this?
The reasons why 3. c) has a /ʤ/ sound is because the root word of ‘ranger’ is ‘range’. In English when we see ‘-nge’, the ‘g’ usually has a /ʤ/ sound like in ‘orange’ and ‘sponge’. When we add letters to the root word the pronunciation usually stays the same. So, ‘range’, ‘ranger’ both have a /ʤ/.
The same goes for 3. b) ‘singer’. The root word of ‘singer’ is ‘sing’ and ‘sing’ has ‘-ng’ at the end. ‘-ng’ is closer to a /g/ sound and it stays the same when we add letters to it. So ‘sing’, ‘singer’. Both keep a /g/ sound.
The Word ‘Ginger’
This now leaves 3. d) ‘ginger’. Why does it have a /ʤ/ sound? Why do we say ‘ginger’ with a /ʤ/ and not with a /g/ similar to the word ‘finger’? This is a good question, however ‘ginger’ is quite a special word in English because of its origin. The /ʤ/ sound was probably kept from its origins in Sanskrit (an ancient language from India) through French where it was pronounced as ‘gingibre’. The ‘g‘ in ‘gingibre‘ is closer to a /ʤ/ sound than a /g/ sound. So, in this case we must be careful with words like ‘ginger’ and ‘finger’. They look the same but they are pronounced differently!
Things To Keep in Mind When Using the Chart
To close this part, when looking at the examples above, be careful. Think about the syllable boundary, its root word and in some cases, like the word ‘ginger‘ the origin of the word. Most of the time, you will notice spelling patterns and these will become clearer the more you engage with different words with the letter ‘g‘ in it. So please, don’t worry. Keep referring to the chart if you are unsure and also there are many good online dictionaries where you can hear the pronunciation of any new words you want to teach if you need further help. One good website is by Cambridge. The link is below:
It also provides you with both the British and American pronunciations of the words.
Activities to Support Your Students with Letter ‘g’
Below are some activities to help your students get used to spelling patterns with /g/ or a /ʤ/. These are designed with Primary School children in mind but you can use them with any level as the letter ‘g’ can be quite difficult.
Activity 1: Help Me Pack My Luggage!
This activity is to help your students become famliar with spelling patterns and the pronunciation of ‘g‘ as /g/ or /ʤ/.
This is an activity you can do from your board. Copy this to your board. You can do this as a class with teams (please refer to our 100+ Classes for general tips on how to do this) or get your students to complete alone. After you can check as a class by writing the answers on the board.
To do this as a listening activity you can use the audio link below. DO NOT WRITE THE WORDS ON THE BOARD. Get your students to listen and write the answer in their books. The students do not need to write the words. They can just write a), b), c) etc. You can write the words after for students to check and highlight the spelling patterns which suggests a /g/ or /ʤ/ sound.
DOWNLOAD ANSWER KEY Help Me Pack My Luggage!
Activity 2: Oranges, Mangoes and Guavas
This is a nice worksheet designed to help your students with spelling patterns for ‘g’ which may have a /g/ or /ʤ/ sound. This focuses on spelling patterns ‘-nge‘, ‘n.go‘ and ‘-gu-‘. Students simply read the words and write them inside the fruit depending on the spelling pattern.
You can get your students to listen after to check. The audio link is below:
If you want to make it a bit more challenging you can download Worksheet B, which is the same without the words. Here your students listen to the words and write them in the correct fruit. They can write 1), 2), 3) etc. or the whole word if they are feeling confident.
DOWNLOAD WORKSHEET A Oranges Mangoes and Guavas
DOWNLOAD WORKSHEET B Oranges Mangoes and Guavas
DOWNLOAD ANSWER KEY Oranges Mangoes and Guavas
You can use the ‘A Rough Guide to English Letter ‘g’‘ chart for different spelling patterns to make yor own worksheet if you like! This will be very good for your professioal development!
Activity 3: Silly Sentences with /g/ or /ʤ/
This is to help with your students speaking and reading fluency. Get your students to listen first (DO NOT SHOW THEM THE TEXT) and get them to repeat. After give them the sheet or display it on your board and get students to listen, read and say.
To make it more challenging you can get your students to say it faster each time. The audio links for the silly sentences are below.
A Giant Green Guava
Listen and Repeat Line by Line
Listen and Repeat Altogether
When I was Young
Listen and Repeat Line by Line
Listen and Repeat Altogether
A Gigantic Ginormous Giant
Listen and Repeat Line by Line
Listen and Repeat Altogether
DOWNLOAD Silly Sentences with ‘g’
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2 thoughts on “A Rough Guide to English Letter ‘g’”
* Pronunciation of ‘g’ as ‘g’: forget, regular, hungry, angry, guardian, language, -graphy, outgoing, lighting, organization, grocery, migrant, along, graduate, diagram, gratitude, progress, congatulate, government,….
* Pronunciation of ‘g” as ‘ d-‘: marriage, heritage, imaginable, general, dangerous, ecologist, encourage, magical, generous, orphanage, passenger, gymnastics, endanger, knowledge, arrangement, religious,…
Reading a correctly word with pronunciation of ‘g’ become easier. But STRESS in English is quite difficult cuz there are many rule i see🤔 Could you give an easy tip to remember, please!
Good Nga. The Rough Guide appears to be helping you! Keep up the good work!
As for stress generally stressed syllables tend to be at the beginning for nouns and adjectives and towards the end for verbs. Thst’s a very rough way to remember it. Also if you see ‘-er’ or ‘-y’ at the end of words, they are never stressed. Hope that helps!