Long and Short Vowel Sounds


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Vowels and consonants are two types of letters in the English alphabet. A vowel sound is created when air flows smoothly, without interruption, through the throat and mouth. Different vowel sounds are produced as a speaker changes the shape and placement of articulators (parts of the throat and mouth).

In contrast, consonant sounds happen when the flow of air is obstructed or interrupted. If this sounds confusing, try making the “p” sound and the “k” sound. You will notice that in creating the sound you have manipulated your mouth and tongue to briefly interrupt airflow from your throat. Consonant sounds have a distinct beginning and end, while vowel sounds flow.

The pronunciation of each vowel is determined by the position of the vowel in a syllable, and by the letters that follow it. Vowel sounds can be short, long, or silent.

Short Vowels

If a word contains only one vowel, and that vowel appears in the middle of the word, the vowel is usually pronounced as a short vowel. This is especially true if the word is very short. Examples of short vowels in one-syllable words include the following:

  • At
  • Bat
  • Mat
  • Bet
  • Wet
  • Led
  • Red
  • Hit
  • Fix
  • Rob
  • Lot
  • Cup
  • But

This rule can also apply to one-syllable words that are a bit longer:

  • Rant
  • Chant
  • Slept
  • Fled
  • Chip
  • Strip
  • Flop
  • Chug

When a short word with one vowel ends in s, l, or f, the end consonant is doubled, as in:

  • Bill
  • Sell
  • Miss
  • Pass
  • Jiff
  • Cuff

If there are two vowels in a word, but the first vowel is followed by a double consonant, the vowel's sound is short, such as:

  • Matter
  • Cannon
  • Ribbon
  • Wobble
  • Bunny

If there are two vowels in a word and the vowels are separated by two or more letters, the first vowels is usually short, for example:

  • Lantern
  • Basket
  • Ticket
  • Bucket

Long Vowels

The long vowel sound is the same as the name of the vowel itself. Follow these rules:

  • Long A sound is AY as in cake.
  • Long E sound is EE an in sheet.
  • Long I sound is AHY as in like.
  • Long O sound is OH as in bone.
  • Long U sound is YOO as in human or OO as in crude.

Long vowel sounds are often created when two vowels appear side by side in a syllable. When vowels work as a team to make a long vowel sound, the second vowel is silent. Examples are:

  • Rain
  • Seize
  • Boat
  • Toad
  • Heap

A double “e” also makes the long vowel sound:

  • Keep
  • Feel
  • Meek

The vowel “i” often makes a long sound in a one-syllable word if the vowel is followed by two consonants:

  • Blight
  • High
  • Mind
  • Wild
  • Pint

This rule does not apply when the “i” is followed by the consonants th, ch, or sh, as in:

  • Fish
  • Wish
  • Rich
  • With

A long vowel sound is created when a vowel is followed by a consonant and a silent “e” in a syllable, as in:

  • Stripe
  • Stake
  • Concede
  • Bite
  • Size
  • Rode
  • Cute

The long “u” sound can sound like yoo or oo, such as:

  • Cute
  • Flute
  • Lute
  • Prune
  • Fume
  • Perfume

Most often, the letter “o” will be pronounced as a long vowel sound when it appears in a one-syllable word and is followed by two consonants, as in these examples:

  • Most
  • Post
  • Roll
  • Fold
  • Sold

A few exceptions occur when the “o” appears in a single syllable word that ends in th or sh:

  • Posh
  • Gosh
  • Moth

Weird Vowel Sounds

Sometimes, combinations of vowels and consonants (like Y and W) create unique sounds. The letters oi can make an OY sound when they appear in the middle of a syllable:

  • Boil
  • Coin
  • Oink

The same sound is made with the letters “oy” when they appear at the end of a syllable:

  • Ahoy
  • Boy
  • Annoy
  • Soy

Similarly, the letters “ou” make a distinct sound when they appear in the middle of a syllable:

  • Couch
  • Rout
  • Pout
  • About
  • Aloud

The same sound can be made by the letters "ow" when they appear at the end of a syllable:

  • Allow
  • Plow
  • Endow

The long “o” sound is also created by the letters “ow” when they appear at the end of a syllable:

  • Row
  • Blow
  • Slow
  • Below

The letters "ay" make the long “a” sound:

  • Stay
  • Play
  • Quay

The letter Y can make a long “i” sound if it appears at the end of a one-syllable word:

  • Shy
  • Ply
  • Try
  • Fly

The letters ie can make a long “e” sound (except after c):

  • Belief
  • Thief
  • Fiend

The letters ei can make the long “e” sound when they follow a “c”:

  • Receive
  • Deceive
  • Receipt

The letter “y” can make a long e sound if it appears at the end of a word and it follows one or more consonants:

  • Bony
  • Holy
  • Rosy
  • Sassy
  • Fiery
  • Toasty
  • Mostly
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Your Citation
Fleming, Grace. "Long and Short Vowel Sounds." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, thoughtco.com/long-and-short-vowel-sounds-1856955. Fleming, Grace. (2020, August 26). Long and Short Vowel Sounds. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/long-and-short-vowel-sounds-1856955 Fleming, Grace. "Long and Short Vowel Sounds." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/long-and-short-vowel-sounds-1856955 (accessed March 22, 2023).

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