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

From Teflpedia


pretty /ˈprɪtiː/


letter /ˈletər/

IPA vowels
æ ɑː
trap father - start
dress face square
ɪ ɪə
kit fleece near
ɒ əʊ ɔː
lot goat taught
ʊ ʊə
foot goose mature
juː jʊə
cute cure
ʌ ə ɜː
strut comma nurse
price mouth choice
IPA consonants
Normal sound: /b, d, f, g, h, k, l, m, n, p, r, s, t, v, w, z/
 ʃ  ŋ
show church sing
ʒ  j 
usual judge you
θ ð s
think that see
IPA Stress
ˈ Primary stress
hotel /həʊˈtel/
ˌ Secondary stress
IPA Syllabification
. nitrate /ˈnaɪ.treɪt/, night-rate /ˈnaɪt.reɪt/

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/.


/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]

Stressed /e/ and /ɪ/[edit]

"e" as /e/[edit]

  • 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]

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

Unstressed /e/ and /ɪ/[edit]

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

"e" as /e/[edit]

  • 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]

  • 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]

  • 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]

  • 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


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

Variant pronunciations[edit]

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]


  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