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Consonant Clusters 11 - "Spr-"


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Consonant Clusters 11 - "Spr-"

Consonant Clusters 11 "Spr-"


Like sp- and spl-, the cluster spr- can be used to describe a liquid that emanates from one point and ends up in another. However, the key element of the spr- cluster is the lateral spread involved.

Spr- liquids spray or spring from their source to cover a wider area. When pronouncing spr- the air hisses along the tongue on the /s/, the lips purse together on the /p/and then the air extrudes outwards from the mouth with the /r/ - much like the water in a high pressure spray. Indeed, it is inadvisable to practise this sound with your mouth full of food or drink, unless you want to share what you are eating with those around you! Not recommended in polite company. 

Other spr- words also deal with this idea of extrusion: when springtime comes, plants sprout and extend their sprigs, spreading their tendrils in a sprint for growth.

Spr- involves dynamism - mythical sprites flit around the river (in a sprightly fashion, obviously), old people who retain a lot of vitality are spry. Spr- energises and reinvigorates. The word spring has a number of meanings and derivatives.

As a verb, it means to jump energetically, and is irregular: spring-sprang-sprung. As a noun, it is the season, a water source flowing up from the ground, or a coiled piece of metal.

Here are some springs:

spring-onionsSpring Onionstrees-in-springTrees in Springvaulting-horseVaulting Horse and Springboardwater-from-springWater from a Springspring-tideSpring Tidecompression-springCompression Spring


Now put the following words and phrases into the sentences below: Remember to put spring in the right form if it is used as a verb. (Hover your mouse over the questions to reveal the answers - tap on mobile devices).

  • full of the joys of spring
  • hope springs eternal
  • no spring chicken
  • springs
  • spring a leak
  • spring cleaning
  • spring onion


  • spring tide
  • spring to attention
  • spring to life
  • spring to mind
  • springbok
  • springboard
  • springy


1.  We were all rather concerned when water started gushing into the bottom of the boat. "We've ___________ cried the captain.

2.  After a slow start, the party ____________ when Vicky put on her favourite ABBA tracks.

3.  "You aren't still trying to get the students to pronounce "thirty" properly are you? "Of course, I am. I'll never give up. After all, _______questionmark_______."

4.  When the sun finally arrived, Grandma opened all the windows and embarked on some ______questionmark______, scrubbing the house from top to bottom.

5.  There are plenty of ways you can cross the Channel, but the first that _______questionmark________ is taking a ferry.

6.  The sentry ______questionmark______ when the commanding officer entered the room.

7. That salad has a bit of a kick in it when you come across a _______questionmark________ unawares.

8.  When the Sun, Moon and Earth are aligned, this produces the greatest tidal force on the sea, which is at its highest range. This phenomenon is known as the }________questionmark__________. The Sun, Moon and Earth being together in a line is known as syzygy, a good Scrabble word!

9.  It's unsurprising that FIFA seems to be run by doddering old fools. After all, Sepp Blatter was born in 1936: he's certainly _______questionmark_________!

10.  The grass is very soft and it's quite long. It immediately rebounds into place after you step on it, : it's so ______questionmark________.

11. Jack sniffed the air appreciatively as he left his house. It was a beautiful, sunny morning and the birds were singing. He felt ______questionmark_______.

12. He has no intention of staying in the firm for long, but he hopes he can gain some experience that he can use as a _______questionmark________ for future success.

13. The shock absorbers on Stewart's car needed replacing as all the _______questionmark________ had worn out.

14.  Perhaps better known as the emblem of the South African rugby team, the _______questionmark________ is an extremely fast and agile antelope.


Springbok_maleSpringbokThe springbok (left) can run at 100 km/h and jump 4 metres into the air. It's name comes from the Afrikaans and Dutch words spring (jump) and bok (antelope or goat).

The word spring has its roots in the Indo-European root *sprengh which related to rapid movement.  As a noun, spring first meant the place where a stream rose from the ground and soon acquired the general meaning of a source of a river, then as an origin for new growth. This led to the adoption of the word for the season following winter, the word spring replacing the older term Lent by the sixteenth century.

Lent is derived form long, referring to the lengthening of the days in spring and now mainly survives only in the context of the forty days before Easter when Christians fast.

As a verb, the idea of spring for speedy movement has been maintained in many Germanic languages. In Swedish, the verb run is springa, in Icelandic it is sprettur. Perhaps this sense is connected to the verb sprint. In Dutch and German, springen means jump and is a cognate of the English verb spring. 

There are also a number of phrasal verbs with spring in English.


Try to identify what these phrasal verbs mean from their context.

1.  "How on earth did you get here? Where did you spring from?" questionmark

2.  When removing the cheese from the mousetrap, the clip sprang back and pierced Clive's hand. questionmark

3.  Denitsa was hiding in the wardrobe, waiting to spring out at her unsuspecting flatmate. questionmark

4.  New businesses are springing up all over the country, as a result of new investment grants. questionmark

5.  "I hadn't planned to work this weekend, but my boss has just sprung a load of new work on me. Great." questionmark

6.  After the rains, flowers suddenly sprang forth from the previously barren desert. questionmark 


Now let's look at words which describe new growth and light, rapid movement. First, match the words in the box with their definitions below.

  • sprawl
  • spray
  • spread
  • spread-eagled
  • sprig
  • sprightly
  • sprinkle 
  • sprint
  • sprite
  • spritzer
  • sprout
  • spruce
  • spruce up
  • spry


1. lying with arms outstretched and legs apart. questionmark

2. a coniferous tree, often used for pulp or for Christmas trees.  questionmark

3. run or swim at full speed over a short distance.  questionmark

4. a small, supernatural creature, like an elf, usually associated with water, and nowadays the Coca-Cola company. questionmark

5. to scatter liquid in a mass of fine droplets.  questionmark

6. lively, active and brisk, usually associated with old people. questionmark

7. full of energy and vitality. questionmark

8. improve the appearance of something by making it neater or refreshing it. questionmark

9. distribute widely, extend over a large distance.  questionmark

10. to scatter a small quantity of liquid or powder, often on food.  questionmark

An_Irrigation_sprinkler_watering_a_gardenWater Sprinkler

11. to stretch or spread out in an awkward or ungraceful manner; unplanned or uncontrolled growth. questionmark

12. a sparkling mixture of white wine and soda water.  questionmark

13. a small twig or stem of a plant with leaves and/or flowers on it.  questionmark

14. to begin to grow, to produce new leaves or shoots.  questionmark  


Now put the same words from the exercise above into the correct gaps in the sentences below:

1.  The chef presented the lasagne with a few _________ of fresh parsley as garnish. questionmark


2.  Nathan was so tired after his 100 km run that as soon as he got home he collapsed __________ on his bed. questionmark

3.  Unfortunately, too many farmers __________ their fields with pesticides that are damaging to the environment. questionmark

4.  "Welcome to my garden party, Mr Williams," said the Queen. "As you can see drinks are freely available. Wills is over there, handing out __________, and Kate is next to the burger van, handing out pints of my home brewed ale." questionmark

5.  Despite having a well-planned city centre, the suburbs were ill-planned examples of the worst kind of urban __________. (see picture below).questionmark 

320px-Urban_sprawl_as_seen_from_Tokyo_tower_towards_WestUrban Sprawl

6.  The passengers on the bus gasped in amazement as the old lady suddenly __________ to catch the bus. questionmark

7.  In fact, Edna O'Brien was a very __________ old lady, still taking part in yoga classes at the age of 87.questionmark

8.  Down at the stream, there was a gathering of magical creatures: elves, pixies, goblins and all manner of other __________. questionmark

9. The SARS epidemic started in Hong Kong in 2002, and quickly __________ to 37 countries. questionmark

10. The taiga, or boreal forest, (below) is dominated by coniferous trees, notably larch, __________, and pine. questionmark

256px-Winter-boreal-forest-TrondheimThe Taiga

11.  Jones felt remarkably __________, considering he had played in three football matches. He still felt full of energy. questionmark

12.  The council are trying to __________ the centre of the town by cleaning up the river, planting some trees and repainting the old municipal buildings. questionmark

13.  The potato was not in the freshest of condition. Indeed, it had started to __________. questionmark

256px-Potato_with_sproutsSprouting Potato


Spr- occurs in a number of languages to convey the idea of spraying outwards. In fact, the noun spray itself has conquered much of Europe, being the same in Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Russian and Bulgarian amongst many others.

Sprinkle also carries the spr- in many languages. It is spryskać in Polish, sprenkeln in German, and spruzzare in Italian. 

Interestingly, in some Slavic languages spr- can be seen as prs-, so the verb sprinkle is prskati in Croatian, пръскам in Bulgarian and пирскати in Ukrainian. The verb sprout is represented as sprießen in German, spruiten in Dutch, spire in Danish and spira in Swedish. Spread is verspreiden in Dutch, sprida in Swedish and spre in Norwegian.

Something has sprung up, I have to sprint off. As our American cousins might say, spread the love!


Spring onions: By Caduser2003 at ml.wikipedia [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

Trees: By Simon Koopmann (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.0-de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/de/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons   Springboard: By ChickenFalls (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons Spring: Phil Berry [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons Spring tide: By Marc Ryckaert MJJR (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons Compression spring: By Taktoa (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons Springbok: By Charlesjsharp (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons Sprinkler: By Nevit Dilmen (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons Sprig: By Elin B (Flickr: mexican lasagne2) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons Sprawl: This Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons image is from the user Chris 73 and is freely available at //commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Urban_sprawl_as_seen_from_Tokyo_tower_towards_West.jpg under the creative commons cc-by-sa 3.0 license. Taiga: By Orcaborealis (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons Sprouting Potato: By ZooFari (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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