Why Is There a ‘G’ in Through? — a Quick Spelling Guide

English is an ever evolving language with a strange and colorful history. Take it’s spelling for example. There are so many words in English that have letters we don’t pronounce. For example, how do you spell through?

‘Through’ the Years: a Short History of English

As a language, English has borrowed a number of elements from other languages.

Throughout history, the spelling of through has been changed widely since it first appeared in English around 700 AD. Over time, it made friends with the vowel ‘o’.

The ‘r’ sound was placed in another part of the word. Through French and Old Norse influence, it acquired a ‘g’.

Want to add to the confusion? Over the next several hundred years, the spelling of through added and dropped these letters as fashion and favor changed.

How Do You Spell Through: Why Through and Not Thru

Another weird fact in history: did you know ‘thru’ predates ‘through’ by over 100 years? That fact is sure to upset the English purists who get angry with people who spell things like ‘drive thru’ window.

But they need to remain calm. That’s because when English was just getting started, it was largely phonetic. This is spelling words the way they sound.

‘Through’ was an Old English word spelled either as ‘thurh’ or ‘thuruh’. As England was invaded several times during this period, Old Norse and French began to influence the language.

‘Thru’ was one of the variants that survived this upheaval, left the Middle Ages and came through to modern times. Its use became popular in America around 1839, with the spelling simplification movement.

Linguists have found over a hundred variants of ‘through’ over the years. These include everything from thru to thorgh, to thorth, to throche to the word we use today, ‘through’.

From Many Spellings to Two

What made us go from several dozen spellings of through to only two? The printing press. This invention was important because it fixed the spelling of words into place. Now, technology is responsible for any variants in spelling we have. But variants are not as prolific as they were in the past.

man wearing headphones while sitting on chair in front of MacBook
Photo by Wes Hicks on Unsplash

Homonyms: Words That Sound Like ‘Through’

Then, to add to the confusion, there are words that sound like ‘through’. ‘Threw’ is a good example. You should remember that this is what you call a homonym.

That means it sounds like the word, but means something completely different. In this case, ‘threw’ is a verb, which means to cast an object away. ‘Through’ is functions as a preposition and an adverb.

To Wrap Up

So now you know. How do you spell through? Through’ is spelled with a ‘g’ and that letter has taken a long route to getting there.

Pam is an expert grammarian with years of experience teaching English, writing and ESL Grammar courses at the university level. She is enamored with all things language and fascinated with how we use words to shape our world.

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