How to pronounce w in wrong, write, wrap

I have previously mentioned that the letter p is often silent in English, see here. Today, I want to discuss the letter w. For example, w is not pronounced in the words (click to listen to the pronunciation)

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

even though many nonnative speakers have a hard time sticking to this rule. In fact, I do not remember being taught in school that the w is silent in these words. When you compare both pronunciations (with and without w), you will probably notice that the silent-w version is simpler. (A possible explanation for this common mistake is that pronouncing the w sounds more English to the nonnative ear.) For instance, because the w is silent, the pronunciation of the words write and right is identical, and the same is true for wrap and rap! A great example for an incorrect pronunciation of “wrestling” can be heard in the video below:

A silent w also appears in several brand names, including Wrangler and Wrigley’s (for the pronunciation of “ey” see this post).

There are many other examples of English words with a silent w. Do you remember the film 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. Interestingly, the German trailer below includes a completely wrong pronunciation of “swordfish” (roughly given by [sɜːdfɪʃ]) around the 0:45 mark, listen yourself:

Other examples include answer, whole, two, and owing. Note that in German, the letter w is not silent in words such as Wrack or wringen, and it might be difficult to get used to silent w’s when learning English.


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