Vowel Sounds and Letters in English
The written English language is comprised of a 26-letter alphabet. Of its 26 letters, 20 are proper consonants, and five are proper vowels. The letter y, can be deemed either a consonant or vowel, depending on how it is used. The proper vowels are a, e, i, o, and u. Emanating from the Latin word for “voice” (vox), vowels are produced by the passage of breath through the larynx and mouth. If the mouth is blocked during speech production, most often by the tongue or teeth—the resultant sound is a consonant.
Pronunciation of Short and Long Vowels
Short vowel sound (/a/): e.g. At
The /a/ here is pronounced like /æ/, it’s the same sound you will also find in words like apple, back, and plan.
Long vowel sound (/eɪ/): e.g. Ate
Here, the sound is pronounced as the name of the letter, like /eɪ/. You’ll find the same sound in words like same, plane, and snake.
Short vowel sound (/e/): e.g Bet
The short /e/ sound here sounds like /ɛ/, as in words like check, ten, and when.
Long vowel sound (/i:/): e.g. Beat
The long ‘e’ sound is pronounced like /iː/, the same sound you’ll find in words like eat, we, and meet.
Short vowel sound (/i/): e.g. Bit
This short /i/ sound is pronounced /ɪ/, like in words kitten, milk, and ring.
Long vowel sound (/aɪ/): e.g. Bite
The long ‘ī’ sound here sounds like /aɪ/ and can be spelled in a number of ways, as in words like ice, cry, and high.
Short vowel sound (/o/): e.g. Not
This sound is pronounced like /ɒ/, like in words off, cop, and stop.
Long vowel sound (/əu/): e.g. Note
The long /ō/ sound here can be heard in words like boat, local, and joke.
Short vowel sound (/u/): e.g. Cut
This sound is pronounced (/ʌ/), like in bus, until, and ugly.
Long vowel sound (/uː/): e.g. Cute
The /uː/ sound can be heard in the words use, argue, and student.