Master that sound: When “g” is pronounced as /j/ or /g/

Students at GS Officiel de Butare in class in 2015. (File)

You have come across words that have the letter “g” such as judge, jug, angle, angel, age, egg, language, Egyptian, and many more.

The letter “g” changes sound in various words. It is pronounced as /j/ in some words and as /g/ in other word.

There are rules that govern whether to pronounce letter “g” as /j/ or /g/.

The first rule is that letter “g” is pronounced as /j/ when it is followed by letter “e”, “i” or “y”.

This is why you will find letter “g” pronounced differently even in the same words such as gorge, grudge and language. It is the “e” that comes next to “g” that changes the sound.

Consider other words such as page, generation, gender, detergent and many more.

Because of the same rule, letter “g” is pronounced as /j/ throughout in the word “ginger” and differently in words “region” and “pentagon”.

Some early learners of English find the two words “angle” and “angel” confusing in pronunciation. The “g” in “angle” is pronounced as “g” in the name “Angola” while the “g” in the word “angel” is pronounced as the “j” in the name “John”.

Letter “y” also does the same thing as “i” and “e” when next to letter “g”.

Consider words such as astrology, Egyptian and gym.         

The second rule is that letter “g” retains sound /g/ when it comes last in a word. Take an example of words like egg, jug, hug, beg and etcetera.

Master these simple rules such that you pronounce differently the words egg and age, jug and judge, gender and grandeur.

At this point, you must have thought of some ‘rebellious’ words in this rule as you were reading this text. If not, then you have not been focused.
Examine the following words: get, give, and giggle. If we follow the rules we have seen, the “g” in these words is supposed to be pronounced as /j/ but it is not.

The reason they stand out of the rule is they are not English but of German origin.

Other words that behave ‘rebellious’ are Hebrew names such as Gideon and Gilead.

The writer is a professional English Language instructor


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