Consonants are letters that are not vowels. Specifically, consonants are speech sounds (phonemes) made by partially or completely blocking the vocal air stream, and letters (graphemes) that represents such sounds.
When y is not acting as a vowel, it is a consonant. Most consonants have only one sound, but a few have multiple sounds. For instance, c can make both the /k/ and the /s/ sound.
A comprehensive list of consonant sounds follows:
- b makes the /b/ sound as in bat; also, when b follows m in the same syllable, it is silent as in lamb.
- c makes the /k/ sound as in cat and the /s/ sound as in cease—see Spelling With C and G.
- d makes the /d/ sound as in dog.
- f makes the /f/ sound as in fat.
- g makes the /g/ sound as in get, and the /j/ sound as in gem—see Spelling With C and G.
- h makes the /h/ sound as in hat; also, sometimes h is silent, as in honesty.
- j makes the /j/ sound as in jam.
- k makes the /k/ sound as in kite.
- l makes the /l/ sound as in lap, and the /lə/ sound as in glad and cycle.
- m makes the /m/ sound as in mad.
- n makes the /n/ sound as in nap.
- p makes the /p/ sound as in park.
- r makes the /r/ sound as in race. When r follows a vowel, it makes a special sound: see R-Controlled Vowels.
- s makes the /s/ sound as in sit, and the /z/ sound as in has.
- t makes the /t/ sound as in tap; also, sometimes t is silent, as in whistle.
- v makes the /v/ sound as in van.
- w makes the /w/ sound as in wet. w placed before a single vowel will usually modify its sound, as in wash.
- x makes the /ks/ sound as in box, the /gs/ sound as in exact, and the /z/ sound as in xylophone.
- y makes the /y/ sound as in yet. y can also act as a vowel.
- z makes the /z/ sound as in zip.
Note that the consonant q is almost always followed by the vowel u. The u in this case takes on the /w/ sound, so qu together make the /kw/ sound. In some French-derived words, -que makes the /k/ sound as in torque and plaque.