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Making sense of 'ough' words in English

Updated: Dec 6, 2021

Many words in English use the combination of letters 'ough' but did you know there are five different sounds that these letters make?

  1. The /o/ sound, as is cough

  2. The /oo/ sound, as in through

  3. The /or/ sound, as in thought

  4. The /ow/ sound, as in bough

  5. The /uff/ sound, as in tough

There aren't any hard and fast rules to knowing which sound you need to pronounce. This has to come with practice in reading and spelling the words. Here are some examples of the most common English words that use 'ough', along with the sound they make.

ough words using the /o/ sound

  • cough - the virus left him with a chesty cough

ough words using the /oo/ sound

  • through - they walked through the park

  • breakthrough - the scientists made the breakthrough they were hoping for

ough words using the /or/ sound

  • bought - she bought her son son an apple

  • brought - she brought me the books I'd asked for

  • thought - that's an interesting thought

  • fought - he fought bravely

  • ought - she ought to have known better

  • sought - he sought her approval before sending the letter

  • naught - he scored naught out of ten

ough words using the /ow/ sound

  • although - although he was full , he kept on eating

  • drought - there was a severe drought across the country

  • plough - the horse pulled the plough across the field

ough words using the /uff/ sound

  • enough - she had had enough

  • rough - a cat has a rough tounge

  • tough - she made a tough decision

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