OUGH Words on the TOEFL

In my last post on this subject, I gave you two pieces of bad news about the “OUGH” letter combination in English. First, I told you that these letters can be pronounced six different ways. Then, I told you that there are no rules for exactly how “OUGH” will be pronounced in a word. You just have to memorize the pronunciation of different OUGH words.

Now, I have some good news. There are only 17 different OUGH words in English that are possible TOEFL words. If you can memorize this short list of words, you’ll be able to understand and use them on exam day. Below, I will list the 6 sounds of OUGH once more, along with the OUGH TOEFL words that have each sound. To hear the words, click the audio file underneath each of the 6 sound headings.



1) though (variation: although)

2) dough (variations: doughy, doughier, doughiest, doughnut, doughs, doughlike)

3) thorough (variations: thoroughly, thoroughness)



1) plough (variations: ploughed, ploughing, ploughs)

2) drought (variations: droughts)

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1) bought (variations: outbought, overbought, unbought, underbought)

2) brought

3) fought (variations: outfought/unfought)

4) ought

5) sought (variation: unsought)

6) thought (variations: forethought, outthought, rethought, thoughtful, thoughtfully, thoughtfulness, thoughtless, thoughtlessly, thoughts)



1) through (variations: breakthrough, throughout, throughway, throughways)



1) cough (variations: coughs, coughing, coughed)

2) trough (variation: troughs)



1) enough

2) rough (variations: roughage, rougher, roughest, roughly, roughness)

3) tough (variations: toughen, toughened, tougher, toughly)

So there you have it. 6 sounds, 17 words, and 4 letters. Study all of the above carefully, and you will master the mighty OUGH on the TOEFL.


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