How to pronounce -ough in English

OUGH is pronounced at least 5 different ways in English!

Here are some of the most common words with their pronunciation and examples.

1. Pronounced like the “o” in “no”

Dough (n.) = a soft mass used to make bread; a mix of flour, water, milk, etc

  • I want to make my own bread, but I need a recipe for the dough.

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Though / Although (conj.) = these words are used with a contrasting situation

  • Although he studied very hard, he failed the test.
  • He’s the most handsome man I’ve ever seen! I think he has a girlfriend, though.

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Thorough (adj.) / Thoroughly (adv.) = done in a complete and detailed way

  • I did a thorough analysis of the situation; I studied every part of the problem.
  • The police searched the house thoroughly – they looked in every corner of every room.

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2. Pronounced like the “aw” in “saw”

Bought (v.) = Simple past of “buy”

  • I bought milk and eggs at the supermarket

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Brought (v.) = Simple past of “bring”

  • I brought a good book to read on the train.

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Ought (aux. v.) = Should

  • If you’re sick, you ought to see a doctor.

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Fought (v.) = Simple past of “fight”

  • I fought with my brother last week. He’s still angry and he’s not speaking to me.

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Thought (v.) = Simple past of “think”

  • I thought about buying a car, but then I decided to buy a motorcycle instead.

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3. Pronounced like “uff” in “stuff”

Enough (adj.) = Sufficient

  • I was so busy that I didn’t have enough time to do my homework yesterday.

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Rough (adj.) = With an irregular, uneven surface (the opposite of “smooth”)

  • The skin on his hands is rough because he works in manufacturing.

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Tough (adj.) = Strong, not easy to break or cut

  • This meat is so tough that I can’t cut it with my knife.

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4. Pronounced like “off”

Cough (v.) = When you’re sick, to put air out of your mouth and make a sound.

  • She’s very sick – she can’t stop coughing.

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5. Pronounced like the “oo” in “too”

Through (prep.) = To go in one side and out the other side.

  • The car drove through the tunnel.

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