The sounds of English


There are 44 sounds, which are divided into two categories: consonants and vowels. Since there are more sounds than letters in the English alphabet, phoneticians proposed a system sign used to express sounds in writing. There are 26 letters in English. The standard English alphabet begins with a and ends with z. When classifying characters, there are:

  • 5 pure vowels: a, e, i, o, u;

  • 19 pure consonants: b, c, d, f, g, h, j, k, l, m, n, p, q, r, s, t, v, x, z;

  • 2 semitones: y, w

Learning the English alphabet requires knowledge of the symbol representing each letter and the phonetic sounds associated with that letter. Learning English phonetics is difficult. Only a few syllables in the original sound are no exception.

In most cases, each syllable has several vowels. The letter b sometimes sounds or does not sound like a bat (bat), for example, in words crumb (cram), dumb (dam). The letter c sounds like "k" for c (cat) or "c" for a roof (c: ling) or "teach" (afternoon) for church. And the list of exceptions is endless.

Vowel sounds

Spoken English takes 20 vowels. This discrepancy concerning alphabetic characters reduces the difficulty of writing in English.

Low Tall diphthongs

[[æ] A (ā)

e [ɛ] e (ē)

I [ɪ] I (ī) [ɔɪ]

o [ɒ] o (ō) [ɪə]

u [ʌ] you you)



Additional vowel sounds are used for sound and e - for short and long vowels when the vowel comes with the sound r. For O, the options are varied.

Transcription and stress

Phonetic transcription tells about the pronunciation of words. This is necessary for English dictionaries, as the spelling does not say how the word is pronounced. Phonetic transcription is written in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), with each English sound assigned its symbol.

The rules do not fully cover aspects of stress in English words. The presence of exceptions characterizes the language.

But, apparently, some basic rules still apply:

Prefixes are not emphasized in two-syllable words except for some nouns or adjectives. Therefore, two-syllable nouns beginning with a prefix are studied individually.

There are fewer consonants than there are consonants in the English alphabet. Therefore, to extend the alphabet, digraphs are used "ch," "sh," "th," and "zh," and some letters and digraphs represent more than just a consonant. For example, the sound "th" written in it is transferred as /, /, and the "th" in thin is /written/.

English consonants are classified according to the combination of their functions:

In addition, there is a function "slack alveolar stop," / t / when the airflow mechanism is down.

According to the method of formation, the consonants are divided into:

  1. approximants: J, W, R.

  2. Nine fricative consonants: f, v, s, z, h.

  3. Lateral approximation: L.

  4. Two plosive sounds: t and d.

  5. Six plosive sounds: p, b, k, g.

  6. Nasal consonants: m, n.

Although in some essential words, such as ugh (ugh!), it is an additional marker of irritation. In writing, the fricative is denoted as "GH."

  1. Classified according to the following principles:

  2. How the barrier is created:

  • Stop - [k], [g], [p], [b], [m], [n]

  • slotted - [f], [v], [h], [l], [j], [w], [r], [t], [d], [θ], [ð]

  • Special-Slotted - ,

  1. Active organs of speech and at the place of formation of the impediment:

  • LABIL - [p], [b], [m], [w]

  • laboratory [f], [v]

  • Fore-lingual - [l], [n], [z], [s], [,], [r], [r], [t], [d]

  • Middle languages ​​- [j], []]

  • Back language - [k], [g], [h]

  1. On the involvement of the vocal cords:

  • Voiced - [r], [b], [g], [v], [m], [,], [z], [d], [n]

  • voiceless - [p], [f], [[], [k], [t], [s], [,],

Consonant combination

A consonant combination is a group of two or three consonant letters that, when pronounced, retain the original sound. Such sets are either at the beginning of the end of a word. For example, the word brave, where both "b" and "r" are pronounced, is the initial conjunction. "-nk" is the last combination in the word bank.


  1. Initial combinations are grouped into sets with "L," "R," and "S." The combination ends in "l." An example would be the letter "bl" in blind. Similarly, the final sound in "r" is combined with "r" when "br" and "cr," for example, in the bridge crane. In contrast, "s" begins with s, "st" and "sn" - stape, snail.

  2. The final combinations are grouped into sets with "s", "l" and "n": -st, -sk, -ld, and -nk. For example, first, desk, gold, sand, sink.

Consonant dig consists of a set of consonants making one sound. Some digraphs appear at the beginning and the end of a word - "sh," "ch," and "th." There are also strict initial and final digraphs - "knee-" and "-k."

English vowels

Each English vowel is pronounced in three ways:

  1. like a long sound;

  2. as a small voice;

  3. As a neutral vowel sound (schwa).

In the English alphabet, there are five vowels, but sometimes y becomes a vowel and is pronounced like I, and w is replaced by u, for example, in Ow.

Vowel reading rules

Short vowels, characterized by a "Short" sound, appear when a word contains a vowel either at the beginning of a word or between two consonants. For example, if, elk, hop, fan. A typical short vowel pattern is consonant + vowel + consonant.

Words are taught as families representing groups of words with a typical pattern, such as "-ag" - bag, wag, tag or "-at" - cat, bat, hat.

sound Letter examples of

[æ] a Raga, Saag, Ram, Jam, Gap, Sap Mat

[ɛ] I hen, pen, wet, bet, let

[ɪ] I pig, wig, dig, pin, win, tin, tin, bit

[ɒ] O Hop, Pop, Top, Hot, Pot, Lot

[ʌ] You bug, lug, tug, hut, but, cut

Features of reading vowels:

sound Writing examples of

a ai, ay, a + consonant + e name, mail, gray, ace

I e, ee, ea, y, i.e., e, i + consonant + e he, deep, beast, dandy, thief, achieve, noble

I i, i + gn, igh, y, i + ld, i + nd mine, sign, high, sky, wild, kind

hey o + consonant + e, oy, ow, o + ll, ld tone, street, note, address, roll, bold

You ew, ue, u + consonant + e something, reason, tune

The vowel sound in unstressed syllables is expressed by a short neutral sound ("shiva"), the phonetic symbol / in/, especially if the syllable consonant is not used.

For example:

  • almost, above, accepted, above [ʌ b v];

  • e in accident, mom, taken, camera;

  • I in, family, pulse, officer pencil;

  • O in memory, Common, Freedom, Purpose, London;

  • u in supply, industry, suggestion, difficult, successful, minimum;

  • and even y in sibyl;

  • Schwa appears in functional words: from, from, are.

Features of vowel sounds in English

Vowels are classified into monophthongs, diphthongs, or triphthongs. Monophthong, when one syllable has one vowel when one syllable has two vowels.

let's take a closer look:

  1. Monophonths - pure and stable vowel acoustic characteristic ( timidity ) does not change with time of pronunciation.

  2. A diphthong is a sound formed by combining two adjacent vowels in a syllable. Technically, language (or other parts of the vocal system) move when a vowel is pronounced - the first position is stronger than the second. In the transcription of a diphthong, the first character represents the starting point of the body of the tongue, the second character the direction of movement. For example, you should find that the letter combination /aj/ is in the lower center position on the body of the tongue, represented by the symbol /a, and immediately begin to move and move towards the place for /i/.

  3. Diphthongs are often formed when individual vowels work together in rapid conversation. Usually (in the speaker's speech), the body of the tongue does not have time to reach the position /i/. Therefore, the diphthong is often close to /or/ or even /e/. In /aw/ diphthong, the body of the tongue moves from the lower center position to /a, then up and back to the /u/ position. However, single diphthongs are also distinguished, which are heard as separate vowels (sounds).

  4. English also has triphthongs (combinations of three adjacent vowels), including three sound types: fire/fʌɪə/, flower /ˈflaʊər/. But in any case, all diphthongs and triphthongs are formed from Monophonths.

Pronunciation table for simple English vowels

All vowel sounds are made up of only 12 monophonths. Therefore, regardless of spelling, every word in English is pronounced using some combination of these sounds.

The table shows examples of simple English vowels with Russian pronunciation:

[ɪ] pitt, kiss busy,

[I] egg, red, red

[æ] apple, travel,

[ɒ] no rock copy

[ʌ] cup, son, money

[ʊ] look, feet, could

[ə] before, away eegue, ewe

be, meet, read bi:, mi: t, re: d

[ɑ:] hand, car, father a: m, ka:, fa: d ze

[ɔ:] door, saw, stop to: to, to: to: z

[ɜ:] turn, girl, learn t: n, ge: l, le: n

blue, food, too blu:fu:d:tu:

diphthong pronunciation table

[ɔɪ] noise, coin noiz, coin

[ɪə] near hear nice, high

[ɛə] where air uh uh uh uh

[ʊə] pure, tourist n (b) You, You Erst

Consider some of the features of English transcription:

There are many videos on the Internet online for listening to the pronunciation of sounds, and you can also practice using exercises.

The phonetic system of the English language consists of 44 sounds (20 vowels and 24 consonants).

Vowels can be front and back lines, and they can be open and closed, round or unrounded, clear and nasal. To understand these definitions, you need to imagine the structure of the artistic apparatus.

The division of vowels into forward and backward, open and closed, depends on the state of the language. The division of vowels into the round and non-rounded vowels depends on the involvement of the lips.

When articulating various sounds, it is necessary to correctly observe the correct position of the tongue, lips, and palate curtains.

English vowel sounds are divided into monophthongs, i.e., sounds consisting of one element, and diphthongs, or triphthongs, i.e., sounds consisting of 2 or 3 elements. Vowel sounds can be short or long. The longitude of a sound is indicated in transcription by two dots.

  • According to the involvement of the organs of speech (by articulation), vowel sounds are divided into:

  • Fore-lingual - sounds produced from the front of the language - [ι], [ing]

  • Middle language - the sounds made by the middle part of the language - [by]

  • Back language - sounds produced by the back of the tongue -, [u]

  • closed - sounds made with a small opening of the mouth - [ι], [u]

  • open - vowel pronounced with an open mouth - [with],

  • Half-open (half-closed) - sound produced by a half-open mouth - [e], [-].

Final voiceless consonants are characterized by strong articulation. A significant weakening of articulation is natural in consonants with a last vowel.

Learning any foreign language is impossible without learning its alphabet. But remembering letters without understanding how they sound and are used in words is pointless.

It is the knowledge of phonetics that is one of the essential stages of language acquisition. This is especially important when a person is just starting to learn English and the correct pronunciation of sounds, letters, and, accordingly, words is a fundamental skill.