I'm working on a software that requires me to know if an "e" in a word is silent or not. I thought of using Artificial Intelligence and pattern recognition to determine if the "e" is silent. The AI approach is expensive, I was wondering if there is a fixed finite set of rules I can follow to find if the "e" is pronounced or silent. If no such list exists could you please provide me with a list of words with both silent and pronounced "e" to feed them to my AI engine?

Thank you :)

  • I think this is Off Topic (it's more "software development" than English per se). Have a look at the open-source eSpeak system or similar, or take the sensible route like I did with my Foobar music player plugin - let someone else do the donkey work, and just call their library routines. Commented Jan 30, 2014 at 16:22
  • The simplest rule is that the E is pronounced except when it's at the end of the word and is not the only vowel in the word. I think that will cover 80-90% of the cases. Of course, that still begs the question of HOW the E is pronounced.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Dec 6, 2014 at 2:51

1 Answer 1


There is no set of rules to predict pronunciation from spelling. Hou tu pranownse Inglish is probably the closest you can get to such a set, which is to say: not close at all. Even that list of 50+ complicatedly interwoven rules will get you an accuracy of 59%, and that's for a rather small lexicon of 5000 words. As far as the silent E is concerned, the author in fact expressly mentions one example where it's not detected ("the rules predict everything about bachelor except the loss of the middle vowel").

Your best bet is indeed to feed the software a list of all words with the corresponding pronunciation. As an added benefit, that's O(n) for you (or for all intents and purposes actually O(1)). For that, see previous posts such as English word list with pronunciation and Where can I obtain an English dictionary with structured data.

  • +1 All true. But when OP says silent e, I took it to mean the e following a single consonant that is often used to make the preceding vowel long, rather than the unvoiced e that seems to be a fading schwa, as in bachelor. If that is what the OP means, there is a rule that captures a significant majority of those silent es
    – bib
    Commented Jan 30, 2014 at 15:22
  • @bib: ... and that rule is of course to be found on the How tu pranownse Inglish list.
    – RegDwigнt
    Commented Jan 30, 2014 at 15:36
  • The great Rule 33 (as informed by the equally Great Rule 25). At a guess, it probably covers 95+% of that type of silent e.
    – bib
    Commented Jan 30, 2014 at 15:41

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