What are some of the trickiest words to pronounce in English? Well, we’ve compiled a useful list of ten of the most difficult words for English learners to pronounce.

Learn pronunciations of the words as well as our top English pronunciation tips to ensure you can say these words perfectly.

If you’re interested in improving your English pronunciation and you’d like to learn more about how to pronounce the sounds of English, then why not check out our introductory lesson to the phonemic chart here.

Let’s get started!


10 difficult words to pronounce for English learners


1. Through

Pronunciation: ‘THRUU’ /θruː/

Definition: (preposition) from one side or end to the other

The spelling ‘ough’ can be a real pain for English learners. Did you know that there are at least eight different ways to pronounce it? In the word ‘through’, it’s pronounced as /uː/ (like in the word ‘two’).

Mind the ‘th’ sound as well – this is pronounced with the tongue between the teeth.

2. Biscuit

Pronunciation: ‘BIS-kit’ /ˈbɪs.kɪt/

Definition: (noun) a small flat cake that’s usually dry and sweet

The word ‘biscuit’ has a silent ‘u’, so a lot of English learners mispronounce this as ‘BIS-kwit’. So remember not to pronounce the ‘u’ and just say ‘BIS-kit’.

3. Comfortable

Pronunciation: ‘KUM-fuh-tuh-bul’ or ‘KUMF-ta-bul’ /ˈkʌm.fə.tə.bəl/ or /ˈkʌmf.tə.bəl/

Definition: (adjective) something that provides a pleasant feeling and does not give physical problems

There are two ways to pronounce ‘comfortable’. The most common (and easiest) way is to say it with just three syllables. The first and second syllables are blended into one, like ‘KUMF’, instead of ‘KUM-fuh’.

4. Months

Pronunciation: ‘MUNTHS’ (or ‘MUNS’ /mʌns/ if said quickly) /mʌnθs/

Definition: (noun) the plural of ‘month’, meaning a period of around four weeks

The tricky part here is the combination /nθs/.

A top tip is to pronounce the /n/, but keep the tongue up. Then slide your tongue forward so it’s between your teeth to make the /θ/. Then, slide your tongue back again for the /s/. Your tongue should stay at the top of your mouth the whole time that you do the combination /nθs/.

In fast speech, native speakers tend to remove the /θ/ and just say /mʌns/ (like ‘muns’). It’s much easier to say, so you can try this way too. It’s really up to you!

5. Jewellery

Pronunciation: ‘JUU-ul-ree’ or ‘JUUL-ree’ /ˈdʒuː.əl.ri/ or /ˈdʒuːl.ri/

Definition: (noun) decorative items worn on the body made of metal (such as gold or silver) and precious stones

A common mispronunciation for English learners is ‘je-wel-ree’, as they try to pronounce the ‘w’. However, forget about the spelling and split it into two syllables, like JUUL-ree. It’s so much easier to say it this way!

6. Library

Pronunciation: ‘LAI-bruh-ree’ or ‘LAI-bree’ /ˈlaɪ.brər.i/ or /ˈlaɪ.bri/

Definition: (noun) a building or room that has a collection of books or documents that people can borrow

The easiest way to say this is to remove the last ‘r’ and just say this with two syllables, like ‘LAI-bree’. You’ll hear English speakers from the UK using this pronunciation more.

7. Chemistry

Pronunciation: ‘KEM-i-stree’ /ˈkem.ɪ.stri/

Definition: (noun) the scientific study of substances and how they react, especially when combined

There are three ways to pronounce the ‘ch’ spelling in English. The most common way is with the sound /tʃ/ (like in ‘cheese’ or ‘choose’). However, in ‘chemistry’, it’s pronounced with a /k/ (like in ‘chaos’, ‘echo’ and ‘anchor’). This is because the word is of Greek origin.

8. Temperature

Pronunciation: ‘TEM-pruh-cha’ /ˈtem.prə.tʃə/

Definition: (noun) a measurement of how hot a place or object is

As this word comes from Latin, it appears in quite a few languages (such as ‘temperatura’ in Spanish, ‘température’ in French, or ‘temperatur’ in German). This can cause some learners to try and pronounce this word like it is in their first language.

In English, the word ‘temperature’ has only three syllables (not four!). Also, mind the stress as it goes on the first syllable.

9. Recipe

Pronunciation: ‘RES-i-pee’ /ˈres.ɪ.pi/

Definition: (noun) a set of instructions that tell you how to prepare or cook food

A common mistake is to pronounce this as ‘RE-seep’. However, this word actually has three syllables and we pronounce the ‘e’ on the end, like ‘RE-si-pee’.

10. Quinoa

Pronunciation: ‘KEEN-waa’ or ‘ki-NOUWA’ /ˈkiːnwɑː/ or /kɪˈnəʊə/ (also ‘KIN-waa’ /’kɪnwɑː/ in the US)

Definition: (noun) a seed from a South American plant that is cooked and eaten, often in salads

There are two very different ways to pronounce these words. In the UK, you will hear both ‘KEEN-wa’ or ‘ki-NOUWA’, so both the vowels and stress can change. However, in the US you will only hear ‘KIN-waa’.


More ways to improve your English pronunciation


Now that you’ve mastered the top 10 difficult words to pronounce in English, here are some more excellent resources to help you with your speaking and pronunciation skills.

5 of the best apps for improving your English speaking

5 powerful tools to perfect your pronunciation

6 ways to improve your fluency when speaking English

6 common pronunciation mistakes that Spanish speakers make

Improve your fluency, pronunciation and confidence when speaking in English by taking lessons with our highly qualified and experienced English teachers.

We offer courses both online and in-person in Barcelona. Take a look at our available courses here.

Glossary for Language Learners


Find the following words in the article and then write down any new ones you didn’t know.

compile (v): to collect information and put it together.

introductory (adj): used or experienced for the first time.

blend (v): to mix together.

tricky (adj): difficult.

be up to someone (ph): that person must make a decision (‘it’s up to you’ = ‘it’s your decision’).

mispronunciation (n): the act of pronouncing a word or sound incorrectly.

substance (n): a solid, liquid or gas with particular characteristics and properties.

stress (n): in phonetics, stress is where the emphasis is placed in a word or sentence.


adj = adjective

v = verb

ph = phrase

n = noun

Improve your English this Summer with Oxford House Barcelona

Interested in taking an English course at Oxford House Barcelona? Check the English Summer Intensive courses we can offer you or contact us for more information.

Leave a Reply

Captcha *