How many letters are there in the English alphabet?

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The first thing a person discovers when learning a new language is the alphabet. The basis on which your study of both oral and written speech will be built in the future is letters and sounds. And English is no exception.

The modern English alphabet

The English language has only 26 letters. But this wasn’t always the case: until the VII century on the territory of the current England, the Anglo-Saxon runic alphabet was used, which gradually became obsolete and was replaced by the latin, which arrived to the island along the christian missionaries. For some time, the two alphabets got along together, but the Latin alphabet began seizing power. Back in the XI century, there were fewer letters in the English alphabet than there are now. There were 23 of them. And only in the XVI century, with the addition of the letters J, U and W, the English alphabet acquired a modern look.

Now 6 leters represent vowel sounds: A [ei] , E [i:], I [ai], O [əu], U [ju], Y [wai]. And 21 leters represent consonant sounds: B [bi:], C [si:], D [di:], F [ef], G [ʤiː], H [eiʧ], J [ʤei], K [kei], L [el], M [em], N [en], P [pi:], Q [kju:], R [a:], S [es], T [ti:], V [vi:], W [‘dʌb(ə)ljuː], X [eks], Y [wai], Z [zed].

The letter Y can both represent a vowel and a consonant depending on the position in the word: consonant (yacht), vowel (sky).

Interesting facts about the English alphabet

The “double standards” of the letter Y are not the only peculiarity of the English alphabet. Many letters have interesting features.

  • The letter E can be found in the 11% of all the English words, which makes it the most used letter. To figure this out, more than 240 thousand words from the oxford alphabet where analyzed. 
  • The letter H had 2 prununciations for a period: [eiʧ] and [heiʧ]. The first variant was used by the lower class. Catholics and Protestants also used different pronunciations.
  • You won’t find the letters J and Q on the Periodic Table of elements.
  • Only 4 leters of the English alphabet: A, E, O, L — can be double at the beginning of the word. The combination “oo” is the most common one.
  • The less common letter is the letter Q.
  • The letter T is the most popular consonant in the English language.
  • The letters S and T are the most common first letters. 
  • The letter V is the only letter  that is always pronounced in all English words. At least that is what is stated on the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. 
  • The letter Z is pronounced differently in American and British English. In British it’s [zed], and in American — [zi:].
  • The English alphabet is sometimes called by it’s 3 first letters: the ABCs – a popular children song. 

English words are often written differently than how they sound. So, the expression “Spell it, please” will probably become a good friend of yours. And if someday, while being on the airport, for example, you will have to spell your  name/surname, knowing the alphabet will help you for sure.

And if you would like to learn more than the alphabet, you need to learn English!

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