Decoding the letter C

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ocean /ˈəʊʃən/


cent /sent/


cat /kæt/

The letter C, lower case c (pronounced /siː/) normally represents the sounds /k/ (call, come, cut, close, cry, music), except before "e", "i" or "y" where it represents /s/ (center, place, city, policy). Followed by two vowels it can represent /ʃ/ (ocean, commercial).

See also: Decoding exercises: "ch".

"Ca", "co", "cu", etc.[edit | edit source]

"C" sounds /k/ everywhere except in "ce", ci", and "cy", i.e. followed by "a", "o", "u" or a consonant, or at the end of the word.

  • At the begininng of the word:
"ca", "co", "cu": call, can, car, case, come, company, cost, could, country, course, cup, cut
"cl", "cr": class, clean, clear, clearly, clock, close, clothes, club, create, credit, cross, cry
  • In the middle of the word:
accept, accord, account, actually, because, become, effect, expect, fact, include, increase, mathematics, occur, politics, product, public, second
Exceptions as /s/: Caesar, caesiumBrE (AmE is cesium), facade (French façade)
  • At the end of the word, all common words end in "ic": academic, basic, characteristic, classic, critic, domestic, economic, electronic, music, public, scientific, specific, topic, traffic
Other: maniac, molluscBrE (AmE is mollusk), havoc
  • With "ck":
At the end of the word: attack, back, black, check, clock, lack, pick, quick, stock, track
In the middle of the word: acknowledge, background, chicken, jacket, lucky, package, pocket, quickly, ticket

"Ce", "ci" or "cy"[edit | edit source]

Followed by one vowel[edit | edit source]

Always as /s/.

  • At the beginning of the word: celebrate - cell - cent - center - central - century - certain - certainly - circle - circumstance - citizen - city - civil - cycle
  • In the middle of the word: accept - access - agency - decision - excellent - except - facility - frequency - necessary - officer - percent - policy - process - recent - specific - success
Exceptions as /k/: ASCII /ˈæskɪ/ - Macintosh - Quebecer /kwɪˈbekər/ - scepticBrE (AmE is skeptic) - soccer /ˈsɒk.ər/ - Celtic /ˈkɛltɪk/
  • Ending in "ce" (see also silent e): difference - experience - face - force - nice - office - once - place - price - produce - service - since

Followed by two or more vowels[edit | edit source]

As /s/
  • At the beginning of the word: cease - cyanide
  • In the middle of the word: conceal - decease - society - sociology
As /ʃ/
  • with "ci": delicious - financial - official - precious - social - special
  • with "ce": crustacean - ocean - oceanic /əʊʃɪˈænɪk/
As /ʃ/ or /ʒ/
  • coercion: /kəʊˈɜːrʃən/, /kəʊˈɜːrʒən/AmE

Silent "c"[edit | edit source]

  • indictment /ɪnˈdaɪtmənt/ - muscle
  • Connecticut /kəˈnetɪkət/ - Tucson /ˈtuːsɒn/
  • "ces" as /s/: Gloucester /ˈɡlɒstər/ - Leicester /ˈlestər/ - Worcester /ˈwʊstər/

Homophones[edit | edit source]

  • ceiling - sealing; cellar - seller; cent - sent; cereal - serial; cite - sight - site; colonel - kernel; scene - seen;

C in combinations[edit | edit source]

  • as /tʃ/: Czech
  • eczema: /ˈeksɪmə/BrE AmE, /ɪɡˈziːmə/AmE

In the following cases, apply the rules for each individual letter, but if the result contains two sounds (/kk/ or /ss/) then leave only one (/k/ or /s/).

  • "cc"
  • As /k/: acclaim - account - accurate - raccoon - tobacco
  • As /ks/: accept - accident - occidental - success
Exception as /k/: soccer
  • "ck" always as /k/. Examples in #"Ca", "co", "cu", etc.
  • "cq" always as /k/: acquaintance - acquire
  • "cs" always as /ks/: ecstasy, facsimile (fax), mathematics, physics
  • "sc"
  • /sk/: describe - discount - discover - discuss - escape - score - screen
  • /s/: discipline - fascinate - scene - science
Exception, "sce" as /ske/: scepticBrE (AmE is skeptic)
  • /ʃ/: conscious
  • "xc"
    • /ksk/: exclude - excuse
    • /ks/: excellent - exceed - except - excess - excitement