The 44 Sounds in the English Language

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When considering a spelling program and how to best help children learn the sounds of the English language you need to remember to choose words that help them understand all of the 44 word sounds, or phonemes. English contains 19 vowel sounds including 5 long vowels, 5 short vowels, 3 diphthongs, 2 'oo' sounds, 4 'r' controlled vowel sounds, and 25 consonant sounds.

The following lists provide sample words to teach the sounds in the English language. Certainly, you can find more words to fill out word families or align with a sight vocabulary list, such as the Dolch Word Lists

The 5 Short Vowel Sounds

  • short -a- in and, as, after
  • short -e- in pen, hen, lend
  • short -i- in it, in
  • short -o- in top, hop
  • short -u- in under, cup

The 6 Long Vowel Sounds

  • long -a- in make, take
  • long -e- in beet, feet
  • long -i- in tie, lie
  • long -o- in coat, toe
  • long -u- (yoo) in rule
  • long -oo- in few, blue

The R-Controlled Vowel Sounds

  • -ur- in her, bird, and hurt
  • -ar- in bark, dark
  • -or- in fork, pork, stork

The 18 Consonant Sounds

C, Q, and X are missing as they are found in other sounds. The C sound is found in the k sounds and in the s sound in words like cereal, city, and cent. The Q sound is found in 'kw' words like backward and Kwanza. The X sound is also found in ks words like kicks.

  • -b- in bed, bad
  • -k- in cat and kick
  • -d- in dog
  • -f- in fat
  • -g- in got
  • -h- in has
  • -j- in job
  • -l- in lid
  • -m- in mop
  • -n- in not
  • -p- in pan
  • -r- in ran
  • -s- in sit
  • -t- in to
  • -v- in van
  • -w- in went
  • -y- in yellow
  • -z- in zipper

The Blends

Blends are 2 or 3 letters combined to form a distinct spelling-sound.

  • -bl- in blue and black
  • -c- in clap and close
  • -fl- in fly and flip
  • -gl- in glue and glove
  • -pl- in play and please
  • -br- in brown and break
  • -cr- in cry and crust
  • -dr- in dry and drag
  • -fr- in fry and freeze
  • -gr- in great and grand
  • -pr- in prize and prank
  • -tr- in tree and try
  • -sk- in skate and sky
  • -sl- in slip and slap
  • -sp- in spot and speed
  • -st- in street and stop
  • -sw- in sweet and sweater
  • -spr- in spray and spring
  • -str- in stripe and strap

The 7 Digraph Sounds

  • -ch- in chin and ouch
  • -sh- in ship and push
  • -th- in thing
  • -th- in this
  • -wh- in when
  • -ng- in ring
  • -nk- in rink

The Other Special Sounds Including Diphthongs

  • -oi- in foil and toy
  • -ow- in owl and ouch
  • short- oo in took and pull
  • -aw- in raw and haul
  • -zh- in vision