Clatter and thud (Sounds, Part 3)

a smashed plate on a tiled floor, next to a child's bare feet
John M Lund Photography Inc/DigitalVision/GettyImages

by Kate Woodford

This is the last of a three-part post on words that we use to describe sounds that we hear in our daily life. In previous posts, I’ve covered sounds heard in the city and those heard in the country. This week, I’m staying indoors and thinking about sounds that we hear inside our homes and other buildings.

We use the word creak to describe the long, high-pitched sound that a door sometimes makes when it is pushed, or an old floorboard can make when someone walks on it: I could hear the creak of floorboards in the room above me. / The door creaked as he pushed it open.

The loud sound of two hard objects repeatedly hitting against each other may be referred to as clatter: Inside the restaurant, I could hardly hear myself speak above the clatter of cutlery. / We could hear her shoes clattering on the stone floor.

A single, loud noise that is made when a hard thing breaks because it hits another hard thing is often described as a crash: I heard a loud crash in the kitchen. / The plate fell to the floor with a crash.

Meanwhile, a single, low noise that is made by something heavy falling might be called a thud: His boot landed with a thud. / The box of books hit the floor with a dull thud.

Water in a building’s pipes may sometimes gurgle (= make a low, bubbling sound) and the pipes themselves might clang or clank (=make a loud sound, like metal objects hitting each other): You can hear the water gurgling in the pipes. / The pipes started clanging when I turned the heating on.

When doors and windows make repeated knocking sounds because they are moving slightly, we say that they rattle: On a windy night, you can hear the windows rattle in this old house.

If a room is heated by a fire, we may hear the fire crackle (= make repeated short, sharp sounds as it burns): A welcoming fire crackled in the fireplace. / I love the crackle of burning logs.

If there is an old-fashioned clock in the room, we may hear it tick (=make a sound every second): The silence was broken only by the ticking of a clock.

Of course, not all sounds heard inside a building come from within that building. If it’s raining gently outside, we may hear the rain patter against/on the window or roof: She liked to listen to the rain pattering against the window. If the rain is heavier, making a louder sound, we might use the verbs drum or pound: I heard the rain drumming on the roof in the middle of the night. / We were woken by the sound of the rain pounding on the tent.

This concludes my 3-part post on sounds we hear in daily life. If you’ve enjoyed this post and would like to learn about outdoor sounds, please check out parts 1 and 2!

16 thoughts on “Clatter and thud (Sounds, Part 3)

  1. Gianna

    Thanks for this! I have a hard time with sounds of nature, especially those related to weather conditions we don’t experience in tropical countries. Loved the 3 posts.
    Why don’t you do some of that about the sounds animals make? Also a problem here. 🙂

    1. Kate Woodford

      Thanks so much, Gianna! I’m glad you found it useful. What a great idea for a post, by the way. I’ll look into it. Best wishes from Cambridge.

  2. Ibby

    Although I have a great command in English I absolutely find this blog very helpful as I believe learning never ends when it comes to learning as a second language.

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