Decoding and spelling exercises: /e/ vs /ɪ/

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pretty /ˈprɪtiː/


letter /ˈletər/

Since the spelling of /e/ and /ɪ/ is often the same, many students confuse these two sounds, even if they are able to pronounce them. For example, the word "reject" is often pronounced as * /reˈdʒekt instead of /rɪˈdʒekt/.

Spelling[edit | edit source]

/e/ is always followed by one or more consonants. In derived words a single consonant is usually doubled (let, letting; red, reddish).

There are many words which have "e" in the first syllable. In many cases if you know the stress you can predict the pronunciation and viceversa

Stress in first syllable Stress in second syllable
/e/ general - level - yesterday technique
/ɪ/ pretty belief - prepare - refuse

Common words[edit | edit source]

Stressed /e/ and /ɪ/[edit | edit source]

"e" as /e/[edit | edit source]

  • Stressed "e" in the first syllable as /e/: center, ever, level, member, present (n), question, recognize, record (n), second, whether
  • Stressed "e" in the second syllable as /e/: asset, develop, effect, together,

"e" as /ɪ/[edit | edit source]

  • Stressed "e" in the first syllable as /ɪ/: England, English, pretty

Unstressed /e/ and /ɪ/[edit | edit source]

/e/ can't be unstressed; in practice it will have a secondary stress.

"e" as /e/[edit | edit source]

  • Unstressed "e" in the first syllable as /e/:
  • ending in "tion": celebration, definition, education, emigration, explanation, generation, presentation, regulation,
  • other: energetic, presidential, technology
  • Unstressed "e" in the second syllable as /e/: project (n.)

"e" as /ɪ/[edit | edit source]

  • Unstressed "e" in the first syllable as /ɪ/: because, become, before, begin, believe, between, description, effect, enough, especially, expect, result, return
  • Unstressed "e" in the second syllable as /ɪ/: benefit, knowledge

"a" as /ɪ/[edit | edit source]

  • Unstressed "a" in the second syllable as /ɪ/:
  • ending in "age": advantage, average, image, manage, message, language
  • other: orange, palace, spinach, surface

"i" as /ɪ/[edit | edit source]

  • Unstressed "i" in the first syllable as /ɪ/:
  • two-syllable words: discuss, divide, himself, improve, include, increase, instead, involve, itself, without
  • other: discover, discussion, historical, important, information, investment, significant, situation

Homonyms[edit | edit source]

  • /ɪ/: elicit - illicit; ensure (make sure) - insure (buy insurance)

Variant pronunciations[edit | edit source]

embarrass[1] /ɪ/ /e, ɪ/
employ[2] /ɪ/ /e, ɪ/
employee[3] [4] /e, ɪ/ /e, ɪ/
empower[5] /ɪ/ /e, ɪ/
encourage[6] /ɪ/ /e, ɪ/
engage[7] /ɪ/ /e, ɪ/
enquire[8] /ɪ/ /e, ɪ/
environment[9] /ɪ/ /e, ɪ/
experience[10] [11] /ɪ/ /ɪ, e/
object (n.)[12] /ɪ/ /e, ɪ/
project (n.)[13] /e/ /e, ɪ/
television[14] /ɪ/ /ə/

Variant spellings[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Collins English Dictionary, embarrass
  2. Collins English Dictionary, employ
  3. Collins English Dictionary, employee
  4. Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary, employee
  5. Collins English Dictionary, empower
  6. Collins English Dictionary, encourage
  7. Collins English Dictionary, engage
  8. Collins English Dictionary, enquire
  9. Collins English Dictionary, environment
  10. Collins English Dictionary, experience
  11. Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary, experience
  12. Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary, object
  13. Collins English Dictionary, project
  14. Collins English Dictionary, television