I'm reading an article on different learning styles. I came across a phrase about the auditory learners that I'm not quite sure I understand.

Sounding out spelling words, reciting mathematical theories, or talking their way across a map are the examples of the types of activities that improve their understanding.

While I can almost infer from the context that it probably means spelling the words outloud, I can't find any reference to back it up! First sound out as a phrasal verb means something irrelevent, so does out if I take it as an adverb!

Am I right thinking that the phrase means spelling words outloud? Could you please break it down to its components showing the parts of speech of the words in it?

1 Answer 1


Schoolchildren are given lists of words to learn to spell. These words are called spelling words. Here's an example I found from a site called Time4Learning:

What spelling words should your seventh grader know? Here is a list of 50+ words that are great for use in spelling games, tests, or practice for an upcoming spelling bee. To add more value, download our 7th grade spelling list printable worksheet with +300 words!


To sound out a word means to try to pronounce it. This is what schoolchildren do when they're learning new words.

sound something out
to pronounce the letters or syllables of a word as a means of figuring out what the word is. (Usually said to a child.) This word is easy, Bobby. Try to sound it out.

So "sounding out spelling words" means trying to pronounce words from a spelling list.

  • 1
    Wow! Thanks. I looked up the word sound out and the definition I was getting was to try to find out what someone thinks. Now it all makes sense after knowing what spelling words are and that this a technique used at school.
    – Yuri
    Apr 19, 2018 at 20:42
  • 1
    Yeah, I noticed that definition too while searching around. It was very misleading. Adults can sound things out too, but they usually don't need to since they're capable of reading everyday texts. The first example I thought of was an adult sounding out a "foreign" name (How do you say this? // I don't know. Sound it out. // Ah-bre-yoo (Abreu)).
    – Em.
    Apr 19, 2018 at 23:21

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