Vowel qualities in English words

The following is a list of the most common one-syllable words in English, grouped according to what vowels they contain. You will need to memorize the pronunciation of all these words for the final exam. Luckily, in most cases the spelling will help you. I suggest that you create a guide for yourself noting how particular letter combinations are usually pronounced, and which words are exceptions. The words have been arranged in groups according to spelling. (This list is a slightly modified version of one created by John Myhill.)

I have used the following substitutes for phonetic characters (see your handout from the IPA Handbook): [E] for the vowel in 'bed', [I] 'bid', [U] 'good', [A] 'bad', [^] 'bud', [O] 'bought', [3] RP 'bird', [@] for schwa.

Lists

Words pronounced with the near-high near-front vowel [I]:

GAE and RP: bid big bill bit brick bridge bring chill chin cliff cling did dig dim dip dish ditch drift drill drink fifth fill film fish fist fit fix gift glimpse grim grin grip hid hill him hint his hit if ill in inch ink inn is it kick kill king kiss knit lick lift limb link lip list midst milk mill miss mist pick pig pin pinch pink pit pitch prince print quick quit rib rich rid ridge ring risk shift ship sick silk sin since sing sink sit six sixth skill skin slip spin split stick stiff still sting swift swim swing thick thin thing think this thrill till tin tip trick trim trip twig twin twist which whip width will wilt win wind (the noun) wing wink wish wit witch with build built give live (the verb)

GAE only: been

Words pronounced with the high front vowel [ij]:

GAE and RP: bee beef breed breeze cheek cheese creek creep deed deep fee feed feel feet fleet free freeze geese Greece Greek green greet heed heel keep keen knee kneel meet need peep queen reed reel screen see seed seek seem seen sheep sheet sleep sleeve speech steel steep street sweep sweet teeth thee three tree weed week weep wheel beam bean beast beat breathe cease cheap cheat clean cream deal dream ease east eat feast gleam heal heap heat lead leaf league lean leap least mean meat neat pea peace peach peak plead please preach reach read real scream sea seal seat speak steal steam stream tea teach team treat weak weave wheat wreath key scheme these be he me she we chief field grief piece priest shield shriek thief yield seize

RP only: been

Words pronounced with the front mid-low vowel [E]:

Some sources describe these vowels as being slightly higher, like [e], in RP, but others describe RP with epsilon as well. We will take the latter approach.

GAE and RP: bed bell bench bend bent best bet bless cell cent check chest crept debt deck den dense depth desk dress dwell edge egg else end fed fell felt fence fetch fled flesh French fresh fret gem get guess guest hedge held hell help hen hence jest kept left leg lend length lent less lest let melt men mend met nest next pen pet pledge press quest red rent rest scent self sell send sense sent set sex shed sketch slept smell spell spend spent stem step strength swell swept tell tempt ten tend tent tenth test them then thence twelve vest well went wept west wet when whence wreck yell yes yet bread breast breath dead death head health lead (the element) read (past) realm sweat thread tread wealth friend said says

Words pronounced with the front mid-high vowel [ej]:

GAE and RP: bay clay day gay gray hay lay may nay pay play pray ray say slay stay sway way aid aim ain't brain chain claim fail faint faith gain grain hail jail laid maid mail main Maine nail paid pain paint plain praise rail rain raise sail saint slain Spain stain straight tail train wail waist wait ache age ate bade base bathe blade blame blaze brake brave cage came cane cape case cave change chase dame date face fade fame flame frame game gate gave grace grade gape grave haste lace lake lame lane late made make male mate name page phrase place plane plate race rage safe sake sale same save scale shade shake shape skate snake space stage stake strange take tale tame taste trace trade vague wake waste wave break great steak yea eight eighth freight reign rein veil vein weigh weight prey they

Words pronounced with the high back vowel [uw]:

GAE and RP: bloom boom boot brood choose cool doom food fool goose loom mood moon noon pool proof room root school shoot smooth soon spoon stoop too tool tooth troop blew crew dew few flew grew Jew jewel knew new news screw threw mule muse rude rule tube tune true use truth due cruel blue lose move prove do to two who group soup through wound (injury) you youth shoe fruit juice suit

RP only: hoof

Words pronounced with the near-high near-back vowel [U]:

GAE and RP: bull bush full pull push put book brook cook foot good hood hook look shook stood took wood wool could should would wolf

GAE only: hoof

Words pronounced [ow] in GAE but [@U] in RP:

bow (& arrow) blow crow flow glow grow grown growth know low owe own row show slow snow sow throw bold bolt both cold colt comb don't fold folk ghost go gold hold host mold most no old post roll scold so sold told won't foe goes toe woe boast boat cloak coach coal coast coat float foam goal goat groan load loan moan oak oat road roam roast soak soap toast bone broke choke chose close clothe clothes coda globe grove hole home joke lone mode nose note phone Pope quote robe Rome rope rose shone slope smoke sole spoke stole stone stove stroke those throne tone vote whole wrote zone sew soul though

Words pronounced with the mid-low back unrounded vowel [^]:

GAE and RP: blush brush bud bulk bunch but club clutch crush crust cup drug drum drunk duck dug dull dumb dust Dutch flung flush fun gulf gun hum hung hunt hush hut judge just luck lump lunch mud must much nut pluck plum plunge puff pump rub rug run rush shut stuck stuff stump such sum sun swung thumb thrust thus truck trunk trust tuck up us rough touch tough young front monk son ton tongue won does come done dove glove love none some

GAE only: what was from of

Words pronounced with syllabic [r] in GAE, mid-low central unrounded vowel [3] in RP:

bird birth dirt firm first girl shirt sir skirt stir third thirst whirl burn burst church curl curse curve fur hurt hurl spurt turn urge her herd hers nerve serve stern term verse word work world worm worse worth earl earn earth heard learn search were

GAE only: clerk sure

Words pronounced with [aj]:

GAE and RP: bite bride crime dine dive drive file fine five glide guide ice knife life like lime line mice mine nice nine pipe pride price prize quite ride ripe rise shine side site size slice slide smile spite strike strive thine tide time vice vine while white wide wife wine wipe wise write bind blind bright child Christ climb fight find flight fright high hind I kind knight light might mild mind nigh night ninth right sigh sight sign slight tight wild wind (the verb) cried die flies lie pie tie tried dye by cry fly my shy sky spy thy try why height type style buy guy eye

Words pronounced with [oj]:

GAE and RP: choice join joint moist oil point soil voice spoil toil boy joy toy

Words pronounced with [aw]:

GAE and RP: bough bound cloud couch count doubt foul found ground hound house loud mount mouse mouth ounce out pound proud round rouse scout shout sound south thou wound (past tense of wind) bow (verb, or noun meaning 'front of boat') brow brown cow crowd crown down drown fowl gown growl how howl now owl plow town vow

Postvocalic r

Words pronounced with [ijr] in GAE, [I@] in RP:

beer cheer deer peer queer sheer steer pierce beard clear dear ear fear near rear tear (from crying) year here mere

Words pronounced with [uwr] in GAE, [U@] in RP:

poor tour cure (also, RP only: sure)

Words are pronounced with [er] in GAE, [E@] in RP

air chair fair hair pair stair bare care dare glare rare scarce scare share spare stare bear pear swear tear wear heir their there where prayer

Vowels involved in lexical differences across dialects

For the word lists above, there are cases where GAE and RP have different pronunciations of one of the vowels, but the words are mostly grouped into the same lists in each dialect. This is not the case with the words below. Among the low vowels and the mid-low back rounded vowel, many words fall into different groups in the two dialects. For example, in GAE 'bath' has the same vowel as 'act', but in RP the two words have different vowels.

Words pronounced with the front low vowel [A]:

GAE and RP: act add am and ant apt as ash at ax back bad bag band bank bat black blank brand camp can cap cash cat catch clad clap crack crash dad dam damp dash drag drank fact fan fat flag flash flat frank gang gas glad grand had hand hang has hat hatch lack lad lamb lamp land lap lash mad man mass pan pant pat plan plank rack rag ran rang rat sack sad sang sank sat scratch shall snap snatch splash sprang stamp stand tank tap tax than thank that track tramp trap van wax wrap have

GAE only: ask bath blast branch brass can't cast chance clasp class craft dance draft fast gasp glance glass grant grasp grass half last mast pass past path plant ranch shaft staff task wrath laugh

Words pronounced with the low back vowel:

GAE: block box chop clock cock crop dot flock fox got hop hot knock knot lock lot mock not ox plot pop pot rock shock shop shot spot stock stop top trot watch bond bronze doll fond god job lodge mob nod odd on pond rob rod sob yon arch arm art bar bark barn car card cart carve charge charm dark dart far farm guard hard harm harp jar large lark march mark park part sharp smart spark star start starve yard heart are calm palm swamp swan want

RP: ask bath blast branch brass calm can't cast chance clasp class craft dance draft fast France gasp glance glass grant grasp grass half last mast palm pass past path plant ranch shaft staff task arch are arm art bar bark barn car card cart carve charge charm dark dart guard hard harm harp jar large lark march mark park part sharp smart spark star start starve yard heart clerk

Words pronounced with the low back rounded vowel:

RP: block bond boss box bronze chop clock cloth cock cost crop cross dog doll dot flock fond fox frog from god gold got hop hot job knock knot lock lodge log long loss lost lot mob mock moss nod not odd of off on ox plot pond pop pot rob rock rod shock shop shot sob soft solve song spot stock stop strong throng top toss trot wrong yon swamp swan want was wash watch what wrath

Words pronounced with the mid-low back rounded vowel [O]:

Note that for many American speakers, including me, this vowel does not exist and these words are pronounced with the low back unrounded vowel instead.

GAE: cloth cost cross dog long loss lost off soft song strong toss wrong all ball call fall hall halt salt small stalk stall talk tall walk wall claw crawl dawn draw hawk law lawn paw raw saw straw bought brought fought ought sought thought wrought caught cause fault haul haunt sauce taught broad born borne cord corn for force fork form fort forth horn horse lord nor north or porch port scorn short sort sport storm sword thorn torn worn door floor course court four fourth mourn pour your board coarse roar bore more score shore sore store tore wore dwarf swarm war warm warn drawer boss frog golf gone log moss solve throng wash

RP: all ball call fall hall halt salt small stalk stall talk tall walk wall claw crawl dawn draw hawk law lawn paw raw saw straw bought brought fought ought sought thought wrought caught cause fault haul haunt sauce taught broad born borne corn for force fork form cord forth fort horse horn lord nor north or porch port scorn short sort sport storm sword thorn torn worn door floor course court four fourth mourn pour your board coarse roar bore more score shore sore store tore wore dwarf swarm war warm warn drawer