listening skills ESL · Pronunciation · Spelling

C or K: Spelling & Pronunciation Practice


Do you say citrus with [s] or [k]?

Spelling and pronunciation don’t go together very often in English. So I’m happy to tell you that this article tells about a rare occasion (= it doesn’t happy very often) when spelling and pronunciation go together in English.

When the letter c is followed by a or u or o, say [k].

When the letter c is followed by e or i, say [s].


Circus is said with [s].

Category is said with [k].

Cell is said with [s].

And common is said with [k].

If you’d like to practice with this, I recommend you to do that with this practice video. Here I run a bunch of words, and I’ll give you time to say the word, and then I’ll say it so you can check it.


Now the nice thing about this is that it also works in the reverse way. Knowing whether a word is said with [s] or [k] can help you decide whether to write this word with c or k.

When I hear a word that is said with s and the vowel sounds i or e, I write this word with a c (not always!).

Here are some examples:





And when I hear a word with k followed by a, o or u, then I write the word with c (in all English words; only when the word is foreign such as kangaroo or kung fu is it spelt with k).







Occupy (notice 2 c)

Occult (notice double c)

And many other words.

Examples where the rule doesn’t work (sorry):

Sit is not with a c.

Set is not with a c.

This is a rule too: K followed by e or i

From the rule it also follows that if you hear a word with a k-sound and it is followed by an e, then you write it with k.






And lots of other common words.

Now do the quiz.


You can do this quiz online here.

Fill in c or cc. Type only the letter(s)


The _at sat on the mat.

You type:


1 One day, Cathy the __ow was lazing about in the meadow, bored out of her head.

2 What, she said to herself, does the farmer think I’m __attle or something?

3 Doesn’t he think I need some kind of o___upation to keep myself from eating all this grass?

4 Indeed, if I eat another __entimeter of this green grub, I’m gonna throw up!

5 She __omplained a lot.

6 It’s typi__al of cows to moan, but you can’t blame them.

7 Why can’t I get __elery to eat for a change, Cathy said to herself.

8 Oh, would that this meadow turned into __ement and I’d get chocolate bars to satisfy my appetite.

9 Chocolate bars are a __ertain way to fatten me, and much faster.

10 So you see, Cathy had lots of o__asion to moan, but the farmer never bothered to learn her language.

Want to do other pronunciation quizzes? Have a look here and here.


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