English pronunciation and phonetics
- 1.How to pronounce the English vowels, consonants and diphthongs
- 2.Vowels chart
- 3.Consonants chart
- 4.Diphthongs chart
- 5.Pronunciation rules of the English language
- 5.1.The consonants (voiced and unvoiced) in English
- 5.1.1.The 'th'
- 5.1.2.Combination of 'sp' and 'st'
- 5.1.3.'v' and 'w'
- 5.1.4.The consonant 'r'
- 5.2.The vowels in English
- 5.2.1. The vowel 'a'
- 5.2.2.The vowel 'e'
- 5.2.3.The vowel 'i'
- 5.2.4.The vowel 'o'
- 5.2.5.The vowel 'u'
- 5.2.6.The two 'oo' sound
How to pronounce the English vowels, consonants and diphthongs
The English language has an extensive amount of phonetic sounds and different types of pronunciation acquired through its long history and influences. By learning the most common sounds in the form of vowels and consonants you should be able to pronounce properly most words and letters.
1) Vowels chart
Vowels are part of the speech in the form of sound or a letter. They are pronounced with an open vocal tract. The English vowels are: 'a', 'e', 'i', 'o', 'u'. The vowel can be pronounced differently in different words, see the table below.
|Letter||Vowel sound||Pronunciation examples|
Cat, Black, Hat
|A||/ɑ:/||Spark, Dark, Arm|
Sofa, Alive, Kingdom
|A, U, O||/ɔ:/||
Bored, Horse, Law
|E, I, U||/ɜ:/||
Bird, Learn, Casual
|E||/i:/||Sheep, See, Eat|
|I||/i/||Hit, Sit, Ship|
|O||/əʊ/||Go, Hole, Alone|
|O||/ɒ/||Rob, Hot, Top|
Blue, Few, Chew,
|U||/ʊ/||Should, Put, Look|
|U||/ʌ/||One, Cup, Fun|
2) Consonants chart
Consonants are part of the speech in the form of a sound. Upon pronouncing them there is a partial air block and not-pronouncing certain letters. In English, their list is quite extensive.
|Letter||Consonant sound||Pronunciation examples|
|B||/b/||Bed, Banana, Book|
|CH||/tʃ/||Church, Cheese, Watch|
|G||/g/||August, Give, Grass|
Garage, Casual, Television
|H||/h/||Hear, Hand, Hold|
|J||/dʒ/||Juice, January, Juggle|
|L||/,l/||Low, Critical, Little|
|M||/m/||More, Make, Mother|
|N||/n/||Knew, Nest, Turn|
|N||/ŋ/||Song, Finger, King|
|P||/p/||Pin, Apple, Pause|
|R||/r/||Responsible, Ring, Rap|
|S||/s/||Snake, Snow, Sick|
|S||/ʃ/||Show, Shirt, Cash|
|T||/t/||Transport, Train, Late|
|T||/ð/||That, Others, There|
|T||/θ/||Think, Bath, The|
|V||/v/||View, Very, Cave|
|W||/w/||Waste, We, Wait|
|X||/ks/||Taxi, Max, Tax|
3) Diphthongs chart
Diphthongs are vowels that were created by the combination of two vowel sounds with the same syllable. They are very commonly used and vital to learn by heart.
|/aɪ/||Buy, Eye, Pie|
|/eɪ/||Day, Okay, Pay|
|/ɔɪ/||Toy, Boy, Coy|
|/ɪə/||Beer, Ear, Dear|
|/eə/||Air, Fair, Hair|
|/aʊ/||How, Mouth, Cow|
|/əʊ/||Phone, Nose, Dose|
|/ʊə/||Sure, Pure, Endure|
Pronunciation rules of the English language
The consonants (voiced and unvoiced) in English
In the English language some consonants are voiced and some are unvoiced. The table below shows the unvoiced consonants with their voiced counterparts.
1. The 'th'
There are two types of 'th', the unvoiced and voiced pronunciation.
The 'th' sound will be voiceless at the beginning of a content word. A content word is a word that add a meaning to a sentence, for example nouns, verbs or adjectives. The 'th' is unvoiced in the middle of words when it is before a consonant. The 'th' sound is voiceless when it is at the end of words, except for the word 'with'.
Examples of the unvoiced 'th':
- thank, thumb
- bathtub, toothpick
- smooth, teeth
The 'th' is voiced when it is at the beginning of the function word. A function word is a word that doesn't mean a specific action. The 'th' is voiced when it is in the middle of words between two vowels. The 'th' at the end of the word 'with' is voiced.
Examples of the voiced 'th':
- this, these
- mother, bathing
2. Combination of 'sp' and 'st'
The examples below show the different pronunciation between the 'sp' and 'st'.
3. 'v' and 'w'
The letters 'v' and 'w' have a different pronunciation, to understand the difference listen to the words below.
- voice, various, video
- which, winter, awake
4. The consonant 'r'
The rule to learn for the pronunciation of the letter 'r' is:
- 'r' is voiced when it is before a vowel sound. (grass, asparagus, grapefruit)
- 'r' is unvoiced when it is before a consonant or at the end of a word. (short, door, dark)
The vowels in English
Most English vowels have a long vowel sound and short vowel sound depending on the word.
1. The vowel 'a'
The letter 'a' has a long sound, sounds like 'ei' and a short sound, sounds like 'ah'.
- day, way (long sound)
- cat, dad (short sound)
In words that include '-ought', '-aught', '-alk' or '-aw', the 'a' sound is pronounced like 'oh'.
2. The vowel 'e'
The long sound of the letter 'e' is pronounced as 'ee'. The short sound of the letter 'e' is pronounced as 'eh'.
- monkey, these (long sound)
- melt, letter (short sound)
When the letter 'Y' is at the end of a word that has more than one syllable and when the letters 'ie' are together, they are pronounced as a long 'e'. For example: lady, funny, believe, piece.
3. The vowel 'i'
The long vowel 'i' sounds like 'aiy'. The short vowel 'i' sounds like 'ih'.
- ice, iris (long sound)
- it, ship (short sound)
When the letter 'y' is at the end of a word that has one syllable it is pronounced as a long 'i'. For example: my, bye, why.
4. The vowel 'o'
The long vowel 'o' sounds like 'ooh'. The short vowel 'o' is pronounced as 'oh'.
- nose, remote (long sound)
- stop, box (short sound)
When the letter 'o' is followed by another vowel it is still pronounced as 'ooh'. For example: boat, toe.
5. The vowel 'u'
The long sound of the vowel 'u' is the pronounced like 'yu'. The short vowel 'u' sounds like 'uh'.
- cute, music (long sound)
- cut, butter (short sound)
When the letter 'u' is followed by the vowels 'e' or 'i' it is still pronounced as a long vowel 'u'. For example: fruit, clue.
6. The two 'oo' sound
There are some words in English that have the two 'oo' sound.
When the letters 'oo' follow the letter 'l', it is pronounced as a short 'u' sound. For example: flood, blood.
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