I’m not a native English speaker, and I have a lot of problems when is comes to pronouncing words like archive, archon, zealot, heal, health.

Why is the ch sometime pronounced like a k?

Why is the ea sometime pronounced like a French i or è?

Are there rules to follow when it comes to pronouncing these words, or do we just need to know them?


This question is not a duplicate — sorry if I was not clear. I was not looking for an history course; I wanted rules or tips to help myself when it comes to pronounce these words. @brick's comment was pertinent.

I found something in Wikipedia that might be interesting English spelling for this question. But after looking at all these rules and exceptions, I understand why everyone fallback to the easy answer that you just have to know how it is pronounced.

  • 1
    Look at Soup's answer link
    – lexeme
    Commented Mar 28, 2013 at 12:06
  • 1
    English spelling was fixed at a time when the pronunciation was undergoing extensive change. Since that time many words have entered the language from outside sources with different orthographic practices. At bottom, yeah, ya just gotta know em. Commented Mar 28, 2013 at 12:13
  • The pronunciation is perfectly consistent. You meant to complain about spelling. And we have quite a few questions like that already. The gist is, yes, you have to learn all spelling by heart. No, there is no other way. That's what native speakers have to do, too. (And by way of a side note, the French spelling is terribly inconsistent, too. Which is, surprise surprise, where English got some of its spelling inconsistencies from.)
    – RegDwigнt
    Commented Mar 28, 2013 at 12:13
  • Having Germanic, Roman and French influences in that order on the language over history probably has its role in this.
    – Adam-E
    Commented Mar 28, 2013 at 12:13
  • @RegDwighт Why do you feel like I am complaining? Really? I'm just trying to understand something be better in english. Plus, I didn't ask about the french language (otherwise I'd go on the french stackexchange) so why are you telling me that french has terrible inconsistency TOO (funny because it condraticts the fact that you just said that english is perfectly consistent...)? Commented Mar 28, 2013 at 12:21

1 Answer 1


Quite often, it helps to know the history or origin of a word. You wonder why "ch" is sometimes pronounced "k". This is often the case for words of Greek origin (archive, chronological). Sometimes it is pronounced like "sh". This is usually true of words originating from French (chamois, ricochet).

The "rules" of English spelling are fluid to say the least. Don't worry if you get it wrong, especially with words borrowed from other languages.

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