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In English QU is always used as a digraph.

Que pronounces the sound [K] at the ending of many words:unique, technique, antique, physique, clique, grotesque.

However, the combination QU has the sound [kw] instead of [K] at the beginning and in the middle of many English words: queen, quarter, quite, quiet, question, squad, squirrel, require, inquire.

Then, why is the qu in Conquer pronounced [k]?

Would it be C+on+qu+er or C+on+que+r?

Is there anything to do with its Middle English form?

Origin of "conquer": 1200–50; Middle English conqueren < Anglo-French conquerir, Old French conquerre < Vulgar Latin *conquērere to acquire (for Latin conquīrere to seek out).

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The [k] sound is not relegated to words ending with -que; for instance: quiche, quetzel. –  J.R. Apr 8 '12 at 16:59
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@J.R. Did you mean quetzal? I'm afraid both of them are loanwords. Quiche is from French and quetzal is an American-Spanish word. –  Ze_Rosita Apr 8 '12 at 17:09
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It's not irregular: exchequer, chequer, liquor, lacquer, conquer. Can you find one English word with a pronunciation that ends with /-kwər/? ("aqua and gold" pronounced with a British accent doesn't count) –  Peter Shor Apr 8 '12 at 17:28
    
@Peter: what about qua itself? ('The word qua word') –  TimLymington Apr 8 '12 at 17:38
    
@Tim: Just like aqua, qua never had an 'r' in it. The 'w' from the words in my list was lost (if it was ever in them) long before the 'r'. –  Peter Shor Apr 8 '12 at 22:40
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2 Answers

Because English is a silly and irregular language :) Peter Shor's examples in his comments to you point out that this is actually a fairly common irregularity, that is to say there is no guarantee as to how a qu sound will be pronounced.

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and, to wit, the formal British pronunciation is /'kɔŋkwɚ/ –  New Alexandria Jan 20 '13 at 20:48
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Peter Shor's examples all come from French. I believe you almost answered your own question.

That is, the words had a /k/ sound before they were assimilated into English.

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Just because a word comes from French doesn't mean that "qu" is pronounced "k". For example, conquest came from French slightly later than conquer did, but is pronounced "kw". –  Peter Shor Apr 8 '12 at 21:30
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