Complex Consonants: Definition & Examples

Instructor: Bryan Cowing

Bryan is a freelance writer who specializes in literature. He has worked as an English instructor, editor and writer for the past 10 years.

What is a complex consonant? What are some examples? If you are curious about these questions, look no further. We've got you covered. In this lesson we will look at the definition as well as some examples of complex consonants.

The Car is 'Blak'

If you asked a young child to spell the word 'black', how do you imagine they would go about it? They might get the 'b' and 'l' and maybe even the 'a', but when it comes time to make the 'ck' sound, there may be trouble.

Most likely, our pretend student would write 'k' or 'c'. This is because most students do not grasp the concept of complex consonants without studying them first. A complex consonant is when more than one consonant is combined to form a single sound. There are many complex consonants, and once you know what they look like, you will begin to spot them more and more as you read.

Let's take a look at some common examples.

Digraph Complex Consonants

One of the most common complex consonants (say that five times fast) is 'ck'. This combination is almost always found at the end of words, like in 'attack', 'slack', 'back' and 'black.'

Notice that it does not matter what letter comes before the 'ck'. While this particular complex consonant is usually found at the end of words, it sometimes comes in the middle too. Some examples are 'docket' and 'thicket'. Since this complex consonant is only made up of two letters, it is called a digraph complex consonant.

'Ch' is another complex consonant you may have seen around. This digraph can pop up anywhere in a word. Sometimes you might catch it at the end of the word, like in 'belch', while other times it might choose to pop up at the beginning, like in 'cheese'.

'Ch' is a good example of a complex consonant because it combines two letters to make a completely new sound.

Trigraph Complex Consonants

Another example of a complex consonant is 'thr'. This combination of letters is often found at the beginning of words, like in 'three', 'thread' and 'thrill'. Though again, there are exceptions. It shows up in the middle in words like 'enthralled', 'urethra' and 'anthropology'.

Did you notice that this complex consonant has three letters? That's because it's a trigraph complex consonant, where three letters are combined to make a unique sound.

Another trigraph is 'scr'. This combination usually shows up at the beginning of words, like in 'scratch' and 'scream', but can be seen in the middle, like in 'describe'.

One more unusual trigraph is the complex consonant ''dge''. While there are only two consonants, the ''d'' and the ''g'', the final letter, the ''e'', is found when the other two letters are pronounced as a soft 'g' sound. Some examples are ''edge'', ''badger'' and ''bridge.''

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