Decoding the letter C
The letter C, lowercase 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.
"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"
Followed by one vowel
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
- 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
- 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
- indictment /ɪnˈdaɪtmənt/ - muscle
- Connecticut /kəˈnetɪkət/ - Tucson /ˈtuːsɒn/
- "ces" as /s/: Gloucester /ˈɡlɒstər/ - Leicester /ˈlestər/ - Worcester /ˈwʊstər/
- ceiling - sealing; cellar - seller; cent - sent; cereal - serial; cite - sight - site; colonel - kernel; scene - seen;
C in combinations
- "ch" normally sounds /tʃ/ and it can sound /k/ or /ʃ/. See Decoding exercises: "ch".
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/).
- 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
- /sk/: describe - discount - discover - discuss - escape - score - screen
- /s/: discipline - fascinate - scene - science
- /ʃ/: conscious
- /ksk/: exclude - excuse
- /ks/: excellent - exceed - except - excess - excitement