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How to pronounce wh- words in English

Many commonly used words in English begin with the letters wh.  Originally, there was a special sound that the letters wh represented. Click on the video to hear the original sound.

However, the English language seems to be changing. More and more, the trend in recent decades has been not to pronounce the wh in any special way.  Now, most English speakers in North America and the United Kingdom pronounce wh with the same sound represented by the letter “w.” For the majority of speakers, there is no difference between w and wh.  

There are still many speakers who use the original pronunciation. But today, most English speakers make no distinction. For speakers who use the traditional wh pronunciation, there is a distinction between certain pairs of words like wear and where; which and witch; whale and wail; and whine and wine. However, for most speakers today, both words of the pair sound the same.  

What is the best way to pronounce these words beginning with wh? It makes absolutely no difference. Both are considered perfectly correct. Most listeners do not even notice which way you choose to pronounce the wh.  

Don’t forget that there is a very common exception.  The word whole, meaning “entire,” is pronounced as if it were spelled with an h.  It sounds exactly like the word hole, meaning an opening or hollow place.

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