The 44 sounds in English with examples

Contents

Definition of Phonemes

"Phon-emes" are the smallest units of speech sound that can convey a unique meaning, they consist of consonants, long and short vowels, digraphs and other sounds. Each language has its own unique set. In English there are 44 sounds. Spanish has just 24, French 34, German 46, and Italian 49.

Keywords

The vowel chart shows the keyword, or quick reference word, for each English vowel sound. Keywords are used because vowel sounds are easier to hear within a word than when they are spoken in isolation. Memorizing keywords allows easier comparison between different vowel sounds.

Phonics: The way sounds are spelled

Phonics is the link between the spelling of a word and its pronunciation. Since English has more sounds than letters, a combination of letters is often necessary to represent a single sound.

Phonemic awareness is the best predictor of future reading ability Word origins. The English word dates back to the late 19th century and was borrowed from two many sources. The 44 English sounds fall into two categories: consonants and vowels.

Below is a list of english phonemes and their International Phonetic Alphabet symbols and some examples of their use. Note that there is no such thing as a definitive list of phonemes because of accents, dialects, and the evolution of language itself. Therefore you may discover lists with more or less than these 44 sounds.

English Consonant letters and their sounds

A consonant letter usually represents one consonant sound. Some consonant letters, for example, c, g, s, can represent two different consonant sounds.

Phoneme IPA Symbol Graphemes Examples Voiced?
1 b b, bb bug, bubble Yes
2 d d, dd, ed dad, add, milled Yes
3 f f, ff, ph, gh, lf, ft fat, cliff, phone, enough, half, often No
4 g g, gg, gh,gu,gue gun, egg, ghost, guest, prologue Yes
5 h h, wh hop, who No
6 j, ge, g, dge, di, gg jam, wage, giraffe, edge, soldier, exaggerate Yes
7 k k, c, ch, cc, lk, qu ,q(u), ck, x kit, cat, chris, accent, folk, bouquet, queen, rack, box No
8 l l, ll live, well Yes
9 m m, mm, mb, mn, lm man, summer, comb, column, palm Yes
10 n n, nn,kn, gn, pn, mn net, funny, know, gnat, pneumonic, mneumonic Yes
11 p p, pp pin, dippy No
12 r r, rr, wr, rh run, carrot, wrench, rhyme Yes
13 s s, ss, c, sc, ps, st, ce, se sit, less, circle, scene, psycho, listen, pace, course No
14 t t, tt, th, ed tip, matter, thomas, ripped No
15 v v, f, ph, ve vine, of, stephen, five Yes
16 w w, wh, u, o wit, why, quick, choir Yes
17 z z, zz, s, ss, x, ze, se zed, buzz, his, scissors, xylophone, craze Yes
18 ʒ s, si, z treasure, division, azure Yes
19 ch, tch, tu, ti, te chip, watch, future, action, righteous No
20 ʃ sh, ce, s, ci, si, ch, sci, ti sham, ocean, sure, special, pension, machine, conscience, station No
21 θ th thongs No
22 ð th leather Yes
23 ŋ ng, n, ngue ring, pink, tongue Yes
24 j y, i, j you, onion, hallelujah Yes

English vowel letters and their sounds

A vowel is a particular kind of speech sound made by changing the shape of the upper vocal tract, or the area in the mouth above the tongue. In English it is important to know that there is a difference between a vowel sound and a [letter] in the [alphabet]. In English there are five vowel letters in the alphabet.

Phoneme IPA Symbol Graphemes Examples
25 æ a, ai, au cat, plaid, laugh
26 a, ai, eigh, aigh, ay, er, et, ei, au, a_e, ea, ey bay, maid, weigh, straight, pay, foyer, filet, eight, gauge, mate, break, they
27 e e, ea, u, ie, ai, a, eo, ei, ae end, bread, bury, friend, said, many, leopard, heifer, aesthetic
28 i: e, ee, ea, y, ey, oe, ie, i, ei, eo, ay be, bee, meat, lady, key, phoenix, grief, ski, deceive, people, quay
29 ɪ i, e, o, u, ui, y, ie it, england, women, busy, guild, gym, sieve
30 i, y, igh, ie, uy, ye, ai, is, eigh, i_e spider, sky, night, pie, guy, stye, aisle, island, height, kite
31 ɒ a, ho, au, aw, ough swan, honest, maul, slaw, fought
32 o, oa, o_e, oe, ow, ough, eau, oo, ew open, moat, bone, toe, sow, dough, beau, brooch, sew
33 ʊ o, oo, u,ou wolf, look, bush, would
34 ʌ u, o, oo, ou lug, monkey, blood, double
35 u: o, oo, ew, ue, u_e, oe, ough, ui, oew, ou who, loon, dew, blue, flute, shoe, through, fruit, manoeuvre, group
36 ɔɪ oi, oy, uoy join, boy, buoy
37 ow, ou, ough now, shout, bough
38 ə a, er, i, ar, our, ur about, ladder, pencil, dollar, honour, augur
39 eəʳ air, are, ear, ere, eir, ayer chair, dare, pear, where, their, prayer
40 ɑ: a arm
41 ɜ:ʳ ir, er, ur, ear, or, our, yr bird, term, burn, pearl, word, journey, myrtle
42 ɔ: aw, a, or, oor, ore, oar, our, augh, ar, ough, au paw, ball, fork, poor, fore, board, four, taught, war, bought, sauce
43 ɪəʳ ear, eer, ere, ier ear, steer, here, tier
44 ʊəʳ ure, our cure, tourist

Vowel sounds and syllable stress

Vowel sounds and syllables are closely related. Syllables are naturally occurring units of sound that create the rhythm of spoken English. Words with multiple syllables always have one syllable that is stressed (given extra emphasis).

Unstressed syllables may contain schwa /ə/, and can have almost any spelling. In addition, three consonant sounds, the n sound, l sound, and r sound (called 'schwa+r' /ɚ/ when it is syllabic) can create a syllable without an additional vowel sound. These are called syllabic consonants.