Decoding the letter E
- So-called “short e”, IPA phoneme /e/, as in dress, get, getting, second or merry
- So-called “long e”, IPA phoneme /iː/, as in he, region or scene
- Long "er" monophtong (short vowel spelling), IPA phoneme /ɜː/, as in term, defer or deferred
- Long "er" diphthong (long vowel spelling), IPA phoneme /ɪə/, as in here or period
It also can be pronounced /ɪ/ as in believe — plus other, less common pronunciations, sometimes in combination with other letters, and, of course, it can be used as schwa. Its use as a final, silent e should also be pointed out. Plus the two pronunciations of the English definite article, the (usually, /ðiː/ before a vowel sound and /ðə/ before a consonant sound).
- 1 As /iː/
- 2 As /e/
- 3 As /ɪ/
- 4 As /iː/ or /ɪ/
- 5 As schwa
- 6 Spelling anomaly
- 7 Silent "e"
- 8 Combinations
- 9 Homophones
- 10 Respellings
- 11 Anticipated pronunciation difficulties depending on L1
- 12 References
- 13 See also
- at end: be - he - me - she - we
- as stressed syllable: appreciate, equal, even, evening, evil, female, frequent, immediately, legal, meter, BrE, previous, procedure, recent, region, secret, senior, sequence, species, vehicle
- with magic e: athlete - Chinese - compete - complete - concede - concrete - extreme - Japanese - Lebanese - Portuguese - scene - Steve - theme - these
- Plurals of Greek words: analyses - crises - oases - theses
- Male Greek names: Achilles /əˈkɪliːz/ - Archimedes /ɑːrkəˈmiːdiːz/ - Diogenes /daɪˈɒdʒəniːz/ - Hercules /ˈhɜrkjəliːz/ - Sophocles /ˈsɒfəkliːz/ - Ulysses /ˈjuːlɪsiːz,BrE juːˈlɪsiːzAmE/
- ending in e + consonants: accept, bell, bend, best, bet, correct, desk, egg, end, expect, forget, get, hell, help, hotel, jet, leg, lend, let, met, neck, next, pen, protect, rent, request, sell, send, set, spend, suggest, tell, theft, well, went, wet, when, yell, yes
- : benefit, credit, development, eleven, every, evidence, exit, general, level, never, present, president, second, special, several, very
- other: better, center, edge, else, enter, entrance, envy, identity, investment, letter, member, question, section, sentence, together, whether
See main article IPA phoneme /ɪ/
- As a stressed syllable: England - English - pretty
- As an initial unstressed syllable, especially, but not exclusively, in two-syllable verbs:
- verbs: believe - defeat - defend - receive - rehearse - release - repeat - respect - retrieve
- others: defence - eleven - enough
- See also Word stress § The letter e
- as past tense of regular verbs finishing /t/ or /d/: accepted - arrested - awarded - loaded - offended - recorded - repeated - sorted - suggested - tempted - wanted
As /iː/ or /ɪ/
As a final unstressed vowel. See also Pronunciation exercises: /ɪ/ vs /iː/ § Unstressed syllable and Decoding exercises: "é".
- apostrophe, catastrophe, coyote, karate, karaoke, machete, maybe, recipe, sesame
- abalone - aborigine - adobe - anemone - Apache - apocope - epitome - Comanche - guacamole - hyperbole - simile - syncope - tamale
- Chile - Gethsemane - Jesse - Yosemite
- Female Greek names: Antigone /ænˈtɪgəniː/ - Aphrodite /æfrəˈdaɪtiː/ - Ariadne /æriːˈædniː/ - Berenice /berəˈnaɪsiː/ - Calliope /kəˈlaɪəpiː/ - Chloe /ˈkləʊiː/ - Circe /ˈsɜːrsiː/ - Daphne /ˈdæfniː/ - Eurydice /jʊˈrɪdəsiː/ - Euterpe /juːˈtɜːrpiː/ - Hebe /ˈhiːbiː/ - Hermione /hɜːrˈmaɪəniː/ - Irene /aɪˈriːniː/ - Melpomene /melˈpɒməniː/ - Mnemosyne /niˈmɒsəni, niˈmɒzəni/ - Nike /ˈnaɪkiː/ - Penelope /pəˈneləpiː/ - Persephone /pərˈsefəniː/ - Phoebe /ˈfiːbiː/ - Selene /sɪˈliːniː/ - Terpsichore /tɜrpˈsɪkəriː/ - Zoe /ˈzəʊiː/
See main article schwa.
See also #"er" below
- at end: business, current, different, eleven, even, government, happen, investment, interest, item, level, listen, model, moment, often, open, parent, president, problem, recent, seven, statement, student, system, travel
As /eɪ/: carburetorAmE
Silent final "e"
See main article Silent e.
In addition to magic e (next section) we have examples like dance, horse, giraffe, little and have.
The pattern VCe#, where V is any vowel, C is any consonant and # is the end of the word, is known as magic e.
Magic e is silent but not redundant, as these examples show:
- /æ/ - /eɪ/: rat - rate; /ɑː/ - /eə/: car - care;
- /e/ - /iː/: get - scene; /ɜː/ - /ɪə/: her - here;
- /ɪ/ - /aɪ/: quit - quite; /ɜː/ - /aɪə/: sir - fire
- /ɒ/ - /əʊ/: hop - hope; /ɔː/ - /ɔː/: north - more
- /ʌ/ - /juː/: tub - tube; /ɜː/ - /jʊə/: fur - cure
Many compound words and words with suffixes have a silent e in the middle of the word
- careless, extremely, evening, fireproof, forecast, lively, moreover, pipeline, precisely, rarely, safety, shareholder, statement
Past tense of regular verbs
See main article Past tense pronunciation.
- grabbed, liked, played, trapped
- "er" as /r/: different, interest, preference, several
- improvement, lovely, movement, relatively, somebody, something, sometimes, vineyard
See also Varisyllabic words.
See main article Decoding exercises: "ea".
- as /iː/: beach - bead - beat - bleach - breathe - cheat - clean - cream - creature - deal - dream - each - easy - eat - feature - heal - heat - increase - jeans - lead (verb) - leader - leaf - lean - leave - meal - mean - meat - pea - peach - peak - please - reach - read - repeat - reason - reveal - scream - sea - seal - seat - steal - steam - stream - teach - team - treat - weak
- as /e/: ahead - already - bread - breakfast - breast - breath - cleanse - dead - deaf - dealt - death - dread - dreadful - feather - head - header - health - heather - heavy - instead - jealous - lead (metal) - leapt - leather - meadow - meant - measure - pheasant - pleasant - pleasure - read (past tense and past participle) - ready - spread - steady - sweat - thread - threat - threaten - treachery - tread - treadmill - treasure - wealth - weapon - weather
- as /ɪə/: clear - dear - ear - fear - hear - near
- as /eə/: bear - wear
- as /ɜː/: early - earn - earth - heard - hearse - learn - pearl - rehearsal - rehearse - search
See main article IPA phoneme /iː/.
- /iː/ agree - between - breed - breeze - deep - eel - fee - feel - free - greed - green - guarantee - knee - leek - meek - meet - need - reed - see - seed - seek - sleek - steel - steep - tee - teeth - tree - weed - week
- /iː/ or /ɪ/. See Pronunciation exercises: /ɪ/ vs /iː/#Word_final: coffee - commitee
"ee" is a very reliable spelling pattern. Probably the only exception is the word "been".
- /ɪə/: career - deer - engineer - peer
- /iːə/: freer
See main article Decoding exercises: "ei"
See main article Decoding exercises: "ey"
See main article Decoding exercises: "eu".
- As /juː/: eucalyptus - euphoria
- As /juː/ or /uː/: neuter - neutral
- As /iːə/: museum
- As /jʊə/: euro - Europe - European
- As /jʊə/ or /ʊə/: neuron
- As /ə/: amateur
See main article IPA phoneme /uː/.
- As /uː/: brew - chew - crew - jewel - screw
- Past tense: blew - drew - flew - grew - threw
- As /juː/ or /uː/: knew - new - stew
- As /juː/: few - nephew
- Anomalies: as /əʊ/: sew - sewn
Main article: Decoding exercises: "er"
- /ɜː/: defer - fern - her - herd - person - prefer - sperm - stern - term - tern - were
- /ə/: butter - ever - never - summer - teacher - water - weather
- /e/: deterrentBrE - error - Jerry - territory - terrorist
- /ɜː/: deferred - deferring - deterrentAmE - preferred - preferring
- /aɪ/: eye
- Main article: Decoding exercises: "eo"
- /iː/: people
- /e/: jeopardiseBrE - jeopardize - leopard
- /ɪ/ or /ə/: pigeon
- /ə/: surgeon
- Two syllables:
- /iːɒ/: neon
- /iːəʊ/: rodeo - Romeo - stereo - video
See main article Homophone.
- blew - blue; hear - here; he'd - heed; heel - he'll; leak - leek; meat - meet; read (present) - reed (tall grass-like plant from wet places); read (past) - red; sea - see - C; steal - steel; tern (bird similar to a gull) - turn; threw - through; weak - week; we'll - wheel; we'd - weed;
Def Leppard, Deftones, Led Zeppelin, Megadeth
Anticipated pronunciation difficulties depending on L1
Preconceived ideas and other interferences from L1 obviously interfere in many cases with how students perceive - and pronounce - sounds/words in English. The following sections aims to point out some of the most typical difficulties teachers and students may encounter regarding pronunciation.
Many Spanish speakers will try, instinctively, to pronounce it as /e/ which is very similar to the letter "e" in Spanish, forgetting that very often "e" sounds as /iː/. This is particularly true of cognates, such as previous (previo) pronounced as *, region (región) pronounced as * or worse *, or decent (decente) pronounced as *.
The same situation arises when the sequence "er" is sounded /ɪər/. For example, they tend to pronounce * instead of /ˈpɪəriːəd/ (English "period", Spanish período or periodo).