I was once told by my BrE teacher that when we have a word ending with a consonant followed by another word starting with h, the h is deleted, meaning that the pronunciation is different.

For instance, must have should be pronounced as /'mʌstæv/ and not /mʌst hæv/. The same for look at her should be pronounced as /'lʊkətə/ and not /lʊk ət hɜː/.

Does this stand for BrE speakers?

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    @Nothingatall: What do you mean? I would pronounce "must have" as /'mʌstəv/ with no /h/, and this is not unusual at all. That's why the common misspelling "must of" exists.
    – herisson
    Commented Jul 11, 2016 at 4:27
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    Certainly not. While I can't think of any context where these words would come together, if they did I would pronounce it /'mʌstəv/. I don't even have the sound /ɒ/ in my phoneme inventory (I'm American). Have you learned about vowel reduction and weak forms yet? It's important to reduce unstressed vowels to schwa in function words like "of" if you're aiming for a native-sounding accent.
    – herisson
    Commented Jul 11, 2016 at 4:38
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    @sumelic Sorry. It was late when I posted that, and I only thought of the possess meaning of have.
    – Angelos
    Commented Jul 11, 2016 at 10:44
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    If an American wants to mimic a British accent, about all that's really needed is to delete all the leading "H" sounds. Of course, it's a lousy imitation, but it works in Mary Poppins.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jul 11, 2016 at 12:14
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    I'm American. The rule is that when you have a word ending in a consonant followed by an h in an unstressed syllable, the h can be deleted. Not all Americans follow this rule (I do much of the time), and not all Brits do, either. Your rule sounds like Cockney, which is not a dialect you want to learn. Commented Jul 11, 2016 at 12:26

2 Answers 2


According to a pronouncing dictionary that I've owned for 40+ years, it's perfectly-correct British English to drop the H, except after a pause or when particularly emphasized, in the word the pronouns 'he', 'him', 'her', and in the word 'have' when unstressed.

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    ... but not in Hertford, Hereford, Hampshire, or hurricanes, I assume. Commented Jul 11, 2016 at 13:19
  • @PeterShor, you're right - 'urricanes 'ardly 'appen in those places! I know that usage rules, but I sometimes regret that the British habit of losing Hs and Rs reduces intelligibility. E.g. 'her' reduced to a shwa. Commented Jul 11, 2016 at 15:36

In many cases the initial "h" will not be silent after a consonant in common US speech. This very morning I told my waiter that, "I will have green ham and eggs". I pronounced both "h" clearly. The gentleman showed no raised eyebrow at my manner, and indeed my ham and eggs arrived safe and sound, and tasty, and, of course, quite green. Note, however, that in some parts of the British Empire some particular subject might well have said, "I'll 'ave me green 'am an' eggs." But I am no expert in who says what over there!

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    there's a 19-century cartoon in a London pub that I frequent. A tetchy customer is saying "Two eggs and ham - quick!", and the waiter shouts the order into the kitchen as "Two eggs, and damn quick!". Commented Jul 11, 2016 at 8:10

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