How do you pronounce scent? Do you pronounce the letter C in scent as the soft C [sen] or as the hard C [sken] ?
English learners can have a hard time choosing which sound to use in words containing the letter C, but the rule is actually very simple – with the usual few exceptions.
HARD C – The letter C is pronounced [k] :
— when followed by a, o, u or a consonant at the end of a word
ca-: car, cast, recall;
co-: coat, copper, accomplish;
cu-: cut, acute, accurate;
c + consonant: article, acros
SOFT C – The letter c is pronounced [s] :
— when followed by e, i or y
ce-: celebrate, recede, peace;
ci-: cigar, Cinderella, principal;
cy-: cymbal, fancy, Lucy;
There are very few exceptions to this rule, not counting foreign words which have been borrowed into English.
One notable exception is Celt [kelt], describing e.g. the Irish and Scots. More exceptions are soccer [sokker]; we don’t pronounce it as soser and muscle [musle]; we don’t pronounce it as muskle.
Some words have both of the features explained above. Apply the rule for each C separately.
conceal [konseel] – ‘co’ is hard, ‘ce’ is soft
This also applies to words with two c’s together.
access [aksess] – c + consonant (the second c) is hard, c + e is soft
A Note on “c+h”
You know all about the [tsch] sound of “ch” in words such as church, match, choice, cheer, arch, achieve, chief, and children.
However, the combination c+h is not always pronounced this way. Sometimes the H is there between A C and A “soft vowel” to indicate that the hard [k] sound is needed, e.g. architecture, ache, scheme, anarchist, archive, catechism, schism, chiropodist, monarchy, psychiatric, chasm, chemical.
Sometimes “ch” in words of foreign origin is pronounced [sh], e.g. in mustache, cache, niche, chic, machine