The mysterious letter q

I have often wondered about the mysterious letter q. It does not have a unique sound of its own and it is the second least frequently used letter in the English language. It is still part of the English alphabet and holds its own charm. I have a distinct feeling of awe about this letter.

I have realised recently that my fascination might be because of its typography more than the sound. However, I will save that topic for another day. In this short article, let us learn the sounds of the letter q.

We have explored earlier the different sounds of other letters and letter combinations – with letter a, letter s, letters v & w, letters c & g, and letter combination ea. Please read these too.

Sounds of q

Let us come back to the mysterious letter q. In most words, it is paired with the letter u. It is an incredibly rare occurrence to find a word with q not followed by u. In this spelling combination, the letter q makes two sounds.

Sound 1 – /k/ /w/

This is a combination of the sounds /k/ and /w/.

Examples: quote, quill, equal, aqua, liquid

sound 1 of letter q
Sound 1 – Q

Sound 2 – /k/

This is the same as the sound /k/.

Examples: pique, quay, unique, cheque, opaque

sound 2 of letter q
Sound 2 – Q

Regardless of the frequency of use, isn’t q an interesting and mysterious letter? Here is a brain-picking exercise for you. Can you think of words containing q not followed by u? What could be the uniqueness of these words? Has it got something to do with the word’s origin?

Please ponder over the weekend and share your thoughts in the comments section.

Until next time, continue to stay curious!


All the articles related to Phonics on our blog can be found here. Did you know that the NumberNagar® Phonics method follows the widely acclaimed Orton-Gillingham approach?


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Featured Image Credits: DarkmoonArt_de from Pixabay

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Dr. Soumya Sreehari

Co-Founder and Specialist at NumberNagar®
Dr. Soumya is an Educator and Researcher with a passion for reading, writing and teaching. She holds a PhD in Chemistry (Michigan Technological University, Houghton, USA). Her experience as a student and a teacher in two countries led her to pursue a career in Education. Her core work at NumberNagar® involves quality delivery of product and services at every stage of the customer life cycle. She leads the team that makes this happen. Previously she has taught Chemistry to first year undergraduate students at Michigan Technological University. She is a voracious reader and challenges herself to read 50 books every year.

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