When to pronounce the letter ‘c’ as /s/ or /k/

In English the letter ‘c’ is mostly pronounced as a /k/ sound.

We can also pronounce it as an /s/ sound.

Listen to the difference:

/k/ car car
/s/ city city

 

The rule

  • When ‘c‘ comes directly before the letters ‘e‘, ‘i‘ or ‘y‘ we use the /s/ sound
  • in other cases we use a /k/ sound.

 

Words containing the letter ‘c’ pronounced as /k/

word pronunciation why?
car car because it is not followed directly by ‘e’, ‘i’ or ‘y’
cut cut because it is not followed directly by ‘e’, ‘i’ or ‘y’
cool cool because it is not followed directly by ‘e’, ‘i’ or ‘y’
curtain curtain because it is not followed directly by ‘e’, ‘i’ or ‘y’
carpet carpet because it is not followed directly by ‘e’, ‘i’ or ‘y’
confuse confuse because it is not followed directly by ‘e’, ‘i’ or ‘y’
caught caught because it is not followed directly by ‘e’, ‘i’ or ‘y’

 

Words containing the ‘c’ pronounced as /s/

word pronunciation why?
city city because it comes directly before ‘i’
cent cent because it comes directly before ‘e’
dancing dancing because it comes directly before ‘i’
ice ice because it comes directly before ‘e’
certain certain because it comes before directly ‘e’
face face because it comes directly before ‘e’
receive receive because it comes directly before ‘e’

 

Exceptions

One notable exception is the word soccer (we pronounce the first and second ‘c’ as a /k/ sound: /sokə/).

Another exception is muscle /mʌsəl/.

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