Hard Words to Spell in English

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A lot of my students say that writing in English is the most difficult, because the words are so hard to spell. Don’t worry, English speakers misspell words all the time! Let’s talk about hard words to spell in English. (Hint: One of them has already been mentioned!)

Why Are Words So Difficult to Spell in English?

English borrows words from many different languages including French, German, Spanish, Arabic and Latin to name a few. This is because throughout history, English speakers have come into contact with these languages usually through trade or war.

To learn more about how the English language came to be as it is today and why we speak English around the world, watch this lesson: 10 Facts – Why English is a Global Language.

English Has a Lot of Silent Letters

There are a lot of silent letters in English, too. Look at these words:

Know (the k and the w are silent; pronounce this word like no with a long o sound)
Thought (the u, g, and h are silent; pronounce this word like thot with a short o sound)
Autumn (the u and the n are silent; pronounce this word like otum with short o and u sounds)

Hundreds of years ago, English speakers really did pronounce every letter! Then the printing press was invented, and the spelling was made permanent. Over the centuries, the pronunciation changed, but the spelling stayed the same.

How We Chose the Top Most Difficult Words to Spell in English

Actually, we aren’t too concerned with words you might only find in the final rounds of an English spelling bee competition. For this lesson, we are focusing on the most common words that are often confusing and misspelled.

You might wonder, “Where are the longer, even more difficult words like “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious?” We thought it would be more practical and be a better use of your study time to learn more common words.

Hard and Frequently Used Words in English

Be sure to watch the video lesson for a short and clear explanation of how to remember the spelling of each of these! Gabby will pronounce them all and help you remember what they mean and how to spell them. Be sure to repeat them out loud with her!

Here’s our list:

liaison – a relationship between two people or organizations
He is the White House liaison to labor organizations.

receive – to accept something that is given to you
I received a letter from my brother today.

weird – very strange and difficult to explain
Martha had a weird dream last night.

their – of or belonging to them
Their dog barks all night.

harass – to annoy or worry somebody by doing or saying unpleasant things to them
Some of the older boys at school harass the younger ones.

maintenance – to keep something in good condition by repairing or cleaning it regularly
Our maintenance department takes good care of our building.

recommend – to tell someone that a thing is good or useful
Can you recommend a good restaurant?

success – the act of achieving something you want
The new business was a big success.

exaggerate – to make something seem bigger, better, or worse than it really is
I think he is exaggerating about the size of the fish he caught.

broccoli – a green vegetable with thick stems and many small, flowery heads
I really like broccoli with cheese sauce.

Wednesday – the day of the week between Tuesday and Thursday
We go to music practice every Wednesday.

rhythm – strong, regular and repeated sounds or movements
The children clapped to the rhythm of the song.

pronunciation – the way a word or a language sounds when spoken
Unfortunately, some words have more than one pronunciation.

misspell – to spell a word incorrectly
It is easy to misspell a word in English.

Are There More?

Clearly, there are many, many more difficult words to spell in English. The English language is notorious for tricky spellings. However, this would be a very long lesson if we included all of them. Therefore, we narrowed it down to the most commonly used hard words, in our opinion.

How to Remember Difficult Spellings

The most important skill to improve your spelling in English is to learn how to remember the spelling of new, difficult vocabulary words like these.

For example, you might use a rhyme like “‘i’ before ‘e’ except after ‘c’ ” to remember how to spell “receive.”

Also, write sentences with the difficult words to practice them. Make up silly stories with words you find difficult. When you hear these words again, it will be easier to remember your story and how to spell the words. You might tell yourself a story like “we don’t want e.coli in our broccoli” to remember how to spell that tricky vegetable.

 Finally, you might use a mnemonic device like saying the word “Wednesday” exactly as it looks (Wed-nes-day), not as it is actually pronounced (Wenzday), so you can remember its correct spelling.

But My Computer Has a Spell Checker!

Don’t trust the spell checker on your computer! There are a lot of words in English that are pronounced the same but are spelled differently – to, two, too; your, you’re; they’re, there, their, and more. These spellings often confuse native speakers, too! Just like English speakers, you will just have to practice and look up words you aren’t sure about. Before too long, you’ll be able to remember them.

How Can You Improve Your English?

Before you go to another English lesson, are you looking for an organized, clear way to improve your English? Would you like to know when you’re making a mistake? Click here to get information on our complete English course, Fluent Communication, and learn when we will open it again for new students. 

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