I am afraid there is not a trick to learn all the OUGH sounds, so, all that is left then is to learn all these sounds one by one. This is because English is not a phonetic language. I mean, there is not a direct relationship between the spelling and the sound. So, we often do not say a word the same way it is spelled.
This sound, OUGH, is a quadgraph, in other words, it is a four-letter grapheme that represents one phoneme/sound. For example, AUGH which is used in daughter /ˈdɔːtər/, caught /ˈkɔːt/ or laugh /ˈlɑːf/. As you can see, the same four-letter grapheme has different sounds.
Here you have eight different ways to pronounce the OUGH sound, at least, these are the ones that I have found.
Let’s see some of these sounds in a more didactic way with this fun video. Enjoy it!
So, don’t waste your time looking for a phonetic reason and apply that time in something more interesting such as reading a book, going for a walk in the park, watching a series in English to improve your listening. Whatever floats your boats! and learn them by heart, maybe making sentences or reading poems.
It’s all made up!!
Try to read it out loud.
I take it you already know
Of tough and bough and cough and dough
Others may stumble, but not you
On hiccough, thorough, laugh, and through.
And cork and work and card and ward
And font and front and word and sword
Well done! And now if you wish, perhaps
To learn of less familiar traps,
Beware of heard, a dreadful word
That looks like beard and sounds like bird.
And dead: it’s said like bed, not bead–
For goodness sakes don’t call it deed.
Watch out for meat and great and threat,
They rhyme with suite and straight and debt.
A moth is not a moth in mother,
Nor both in bother, broth in brother.
And here is not a match for there,
And dear and fear for bear and pear.
And then there’s dose and rose and lose–
Just look them up–and goose and choose,
And do and go, then thwart and cart.
Come, come, I’ve hardly made a start!
A dreadful language? Man alive!
I’d mastered it when I was five
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See ya there!!