Honestly, sometimes English does not make much sense. For instance, take this video from the popular 1950s show “I love Lucy.” [Start watching at 2:40] Ricky struggles reading the book because the “ough” words do not follow just one single pronunciation rule, but many. Unfortunately, English is not one of those languages where you can pronounce it exactly how it’s spelled, so what logically makes sense for “ough” pronunciation is not even a pronunciation used for that suffix! Understandably very frustrating, these words might be ones you avoid as an English learner. You may have added them to your list of words with tricky English pronunciation to be avoided. To help you out, below is a list of confusing words and 6 ways to pronounce tough English words:

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Words like Bough [ow sound like now]:

Plough [British spelling] – to till the land; more commonly spelled plow; a tool used for tilling the land or moving snow; to move through something, rather forcefully

     “You need to plough/plow the land.”

     “He ploughed/plowed through the group of people to get to the front stage.”

Drought – a time with little to no rainfall

     “We are in a drought right now, so try to conserve water.”

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Words like Rough [uff sound like stuff]:

Enough – sufficient, adequate amount

     “If I bring two pizzas, will that be enough food for all of us?”

Tough- able to endure hardship or pain

     “Tom has been going through a lot. But I know he is tough, so he will make it through.”

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Words like Through [oo sound like blue]:

Breakthrough – an advancement or increase

     “They made a breakthrough discovery in the medical field just last month.”

     “He experienced a breakthrough in his learning when he started using a private teacher.”

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Words like Cough [off/awf sound like off]:

Trough – a big container that is used to feed animals

     “The pigs get fed in the trough.”

      “In the morning, the farmer refills the horses’ water trough.

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Words like Although [oh sound like toe]:

Borough – a municipality that isn’t as big as a city; the 5 parts of New York City

     “Which borough do you live in? Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, or Staten Island?”

Dough – a mixture of flour, water, etc. that makes the base of food such as pizza

     “Did you make the dough for the pizza?”

Furlough – a temporary leave from a place, often used in the military

     “You can leave the military base and travel on your furlough.”

Sourdough – a type of bread that has a sour taste to it

     “Would you like your sandwich on rye, wheat, white, or sourdough bread?”

Thorough – complete, detailed

     “I couldn’t find the paper I was looking for. I was very thorough, so I know it’s not there.”

     “Clean it up thoroughly, please. I don’t want any mess left.”

Though – despite, although, however

     “Even though it is raining, we can still have fun! There are lots of things we can do indoors.”

     “Though she was trying to keep the party a surprise, Allen found out about it.”

Playdough – a clay like, colored material that kids play with

     “Would you like to play with playdough today?”

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Words like thought [sounds like awt/ot]:

Brought – past of to bring

     “I brought some cookies for us to share.”

Bought – past of to buy

     “I bought a new bathing suit for our trip to the Caribbean.”

Fought – past of to fight

   “They fought over who would get the last cookie.”

Caught – past of to catch

     “I caught two fish in the lake today!”

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We know that “ough” pronunciation can be frustrating and annoying, but don’t give up trying to master English spelling and pronunciation. Check out our free course content for more English-learning tips!