Learning English Pronunciation: What are long and short vowels?

Pronunciation is an important part of learning a new language – it’s especially important when it comes to your speaking and listening skills! When you learn English abroad with EC, you’ll definitely hear about ‘vowel sounds’ from your awesome teachers, but let’s take a quick look at long and short vowels right here.

What’s a long vowel?

A long vowel sound is one that is pronounced the same way as its name, like the A in the word ‘make’ (meɪk). In the phonetic alphabet, it’s written as /eɪ/.

What’s a short vowel?

A short vowel sound does not sound like the letter’s name, like in the word ‘mad’. In the phonetic alphabet, this sound is written /a/. This can be tricky when saying words like ‘beach’ or ‘sheet’, which can sound a lot like some rude words!

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.

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