Pronouncing the Double ‘C’

pronouncing the double 'c'How do you pronounce ‘access’, ‘success’, ‘accept’, ‘accident’ and ’accent’?

What about ‘accuse’, ‘account’, ‘raccoon’, ‘acclaim’, ‘piccolo’ and ‘moccasin’?

The double ‘c’ can cause some problems because there are two different ways it can be pronounced: ‘ks’ or ‘k’. So which pronunciation should we use, and when? Luckily there is a simple answer to this question. I’m no poet, so this is the closest I can come to a catchy little rhyme to help you remember the rule:

Double ‘c’ before ‘i’ or ‘e’ should be pronounced as ‘ks’.

But double ‘c’ should be a ‘k’ when it comes before anything else.

Not bad, huh? ;-)

Here are some examples before ‘i’ or ‘e’: success = suk-SESS, access = AK-sess, accident = AK-si-dent

And some examples before other letters: piccolo = PIK-uh-low, raccoon = ra-KOON, moccasin = MOK-uh-sin,  acclaim = uh-KLAIM

One exception that’s worth mentioning here is the double ‘c’ found in many Italian words. These tend to be pronounced as ‘ch’. For example, cappuccino = kap-uh-CHEE-no.

Practice reading this paragraph out loud:

I successfully gained access to the hippest new cafe in Copenhagen. I ordered a cappuccino (an acceptable choice) and the barista was most accommodating. On the way to my seat, I accidentally bumped into someone. I could see she was an actress from a critically acclaimed new film. I wasn’t accustomed to meeting such people, and she was accusing me of spilling her coffee on her new moccasins. I tried not to be distracted by her expensive accessories which accentuated her beauty so perfectly, and I explained it was just an accident. Couldn’t we come to an accord? She thought I should be held accountable. I decided to leave and accelerated towards the door. I successfully slipped out of the cafe behind the man playing the accordion as she continued to yell accusations.

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  1. Chua Lai Peng says:

    What a wonderful way to explore the Language English- A good passage to practice reading out loud.

  2. Fabio says:

    When you found italian words the italian rules for C applies:
    ca = KAH as in car
    ce = CH+ E as in bed
    ci = CH + ee as in free
    co = KOH as in core
    cu = KOO as in cook

    the K sound become CH if there is an “i” after the c as cia in ciao (Chee-ah-oh)
    the CH sound become K if there is an “h” after the c so chi (who) is read as KEE

    The doubles in italian words are always as the single but the sound is prolonged.

    And about piccolo… it comes from italian “flauto piccolo” (small flute) so if happen to you to talk about piccolos you can show off your deep music knowledge using the italian pronunciation: PEE-(K)KOH-LOH! ;)

    • Heather Hansen says:

      Thanks so much for this fantastic explanation!

      You raise another really great point about how to pronounce foreign words in English. Unfortunately in many cases, for example as you pointed out with ‘piccolo’, we use a more English pronunciation instead of the foreign original. There’s always debate about whether we should use the original, foreign pronunciation or the anglicized version. What do you think?

      I do have one question though: for the last one, ‘cu’, you wrote ‘KOO as in cook’. Do you mean KOO as in ‘coo’, like when a baby coos? The vowel in ‘cook’ sounds more like the vowel in ‘should, would, could, wood, good.’ Is this the vowel sound you mean?

      Thanks again for these pointers! I can’t wait to dazzle the wait staff next time I go to an Italian restaurant!!

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