What are adjacent consonants?

Synthetic Phonics programmes now talk of ‘adjacent consonants’. What are adjacent consonants? Why is it that the letters ‘bl’ in the word ‘black’ are adjacent consonants while ‘ck’ are not?

Adjacent consonants are two or more consonants that appear next to one another within a word and they each represent a different sound. Take the word ‘stop’ for example. The ‘s’ and ‘t’ are adjacent consonants not only because they appear next to one another but also because they spell two different sounds /s/ and /t/.

Adjacent consonants can appear at the beginning of a word e.g. ‘grab’, at the end of a word ‘bend’ or at both ends of a word e.g. ‘print’. There can be three adjacent consonants in a word like in the word ‘scrap’. These are also called ‘consonant strings’.

When adjacent consonants spell just one sound e.g. the letters ‘s’ and ‘h’ together spell the sound /sh/, they are called a digraph (two letters that represent one sound). That is why the letters ‘ck’ in the word ‘black’ are not adjacent consonants but a digraph; two letters that spell the sound /k/.

In the past, adjacent consonants were called ‘blends’ but now that we use the verb ‘to blend’ (push sounds together into a word) we no longer use the noun ‘a blend’ as this may confuse.

Phonicbooks publish reading books that help the pupil to practice reading words with adjacent consonants.  To see the range visit: https://www.phonicbooks.co.uk/completerange.php

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