A trigraph is where three letters are used to represent one sound (or ‘phoneme’). Trigraphs can consist of all consonants, a mixture of consonants and vowels, and, in some cases, all vowels. Some examples of trigraphs include ‘eau,’ ‘tch,’ ‘igh,’ and ‘air.’
‘Tri’ is a prefix used when talking about three of something. So, as their name suggests, a trigraph is a single sound depicted by three letters. They can be made up of three consonants or a combination of both vowels and consonants, but there are some cases (such as with the trigraph ‘eau’) where they can consist of all vowels.
For example, the word ‘hatch’ includes a group of three letters, ‘tch,’ at the end, making only one sound. It is what we would call a consonant trigraph. Other examples of consonant trigraphs include ‘sch,’ ‘shr,’ and ‘thr.’
What are some Trigraph Examples?
By now, the question of ‘what is a trigraph?’ won’t be a mystery to us anymore. But just like any topic, examples can help improve our understanding. Here are a few common trigraph examples:
- ore as in bore
- ear as in beard
- are as in dare
- igh as in sigh
- air as in fairy
- tch as in catch
As we mentioned before, we know these trigraph examples are trigraphs because the three letters form one sound when we say them out loud. Take the ‘igh’ trigraph in the word ‘sigh,’ for example. When we say the word aloud, the letters ‘I,’ ‘g,’ and ‘h’ come together to form a sound similar to the long /i/ sound.
Some trigraphs form a single word all on their own:
- awe (meaning a feeling of wonder or respect)
- aye (an informal way of saying ‘yes’ in some dialects)
- ewe (which means a female sheep)
- eye (which also means the organs we use for seeing)
- owe (which means to be in debt to someone)
Using our handy list of trigraph examples, you’ll be able to show some examples of trigraphs and trigraph words to your pupils. These trigraph examples will help pupils see how these three-letter graphemes appear in our everyday language.
Better yet, you might like to challenge your pupils to see how many new words they can create using this trigraphs list. Then, separate pupils into teams to create an exciting element of healthy competition. The couple who can add the most words to this trigraphs list will be the trigraphs champions of the day!
Consonant Trigraphs vs. Adjacent Consonants
By now, we’ve discovered the answer to ‘what is a trigraph?’, learned a thing or two about them, and seen some trigraph examples. But before we go any further, let’s explore the difference between consonant trigraphs and adjacent consonants.
Consonant trigraphs can sometimes be confused with adjacent consonants. Adjacent consonants are groups of two or three consonant letters pronounced individually in quick succession. However, as we’ve learned, trigraphs are where the letters form one sound.
Let’s take the word’ script’ to give us an example of adjacent consonants. It contains two sets of adjacent consonants: s-c-r and p-t.
Scr – i – pt
Even though the sounds blend quickly, the first set of adjacent consonants is not a trigraph and the second set is not a digraph because each letter is pronounced individually as s-c-r-i-p-t.
Let’s take a look at a few adjacent consonants and trigraph examples:
N –igh– t
Sm– i – le
In the word ‘night,’ the ‘igh’ is a trigraph. We know this because when we sound the word out, the letters ‘I,’ ‘g,’ and ‘h’ come together in a single sound, which you might like to think of as a long ‘i’ sound. On the other hand, the word ‘smile’ contains the adjacent consonants ‘s’ and ‘m’. So as you say the word ‘smile’ out loud, you’ll notice how both the ‘s’ and the ‘m’ retain their sounds.