In a nutshell
The typical sound made by ‘w’, as heard in ‘west’ is simple enough – but ‘w’ is quite a tricky letter to read as it appears quite often as a silent letter and/or can cause a change in the way that a vowel coming before it is pronounced (see below for examples).
Letter w song
This song gives a nice, quick introduction to the letter w and its sound:
Silent ‘w’ and other quirks
Words with ‘wr’ in them reflect that English spelling became standardized at a time when pronunciation was different from today. Centuries ago there would have been an audible difference in how ‘write’ and ‘right’ were pronounced and while the pronunciations are now identical, the spelling difference remains.
In addition to ‘wr’ words, ‘w’ is also silent in unexpected places, such as in the words ‘sword’ and ‘answer’ – again because of the way these words were once pronounced.
And then there is the ‘wh’ sound, which for most people these days is pronounced as ‘w’ – in words like ‘whale’ and ‘which’, but as ‘h’ in words like ‘who’ and ‘whole’. In times gone by, some of these words were actually pronounced as if they began with ‘hw’. This pronunciation persists in some places to this day – notably in the southern states of America. It is also sometimes associated with an overly pompous form of upper class British English – as parodied in this Family Guy clip:
‘W’ at the end of words
When a word ends in ‘w’, its presence often changes the sound made by the vowel that comes before it. For example, note the different sound made by ‘a’ in ‘law’ as compared to in ‘la’.
There are five types of vowel sounds heard in words ending in ‘w’:
Rather than trying to have your child memorize these sounds, use this as further encouragement to read to them as often as possible. Our language can be a tricky one and a child who falls in love with reading and wants to read all the time is best placed to master it!
Three syllables, not two
Remember that in most parts of the world the name of the letter is pronounced ‘double yoo’, not ‘dubyoo’! Having said this, in colloquial Texan English, you will hear it being said ‘dubya’ – hence the nickname sometimes given to former American President, George W Bush.
‘I Spy’ words
‘I spy with my little eye, something beginning with…’ is a great game to play to reinforce the sound that a letter makes and it can be a fun game to kill some time – for example on a long car trip.
Here is a selection of short words starting with ‘w’ for you use:
watermelon, windshield, windscreen, window, washing, waiter, water, weed, wrist, whale, wallet, watch, wax, web, wig, wall, wand, ward, wart, wasp, waves, whip, wire, wool, worm.
The Letter W Worksheets
This letter w worksheet gives your child lots of opportunities to practice writing capital W.
This letter w worksheet focuses on the lower case letter w.
This worksheet gives your child an introduction to the basic sound that ‘w’ makes, and also allows them to practice writing the capital and lower case letter w.
This worksheet provides a further opportunity for your child to become familiar with the letter w sound.