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).
As /iː/[edit | edit source]
- 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/ - Heracles /ˈhɛrəkliːz/ - Sophocles /ˈsɒfəkliːz/ - Odysseus /oʊˈdɪsiːəs/
As /e/[edit | edit source]
- 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
As /ɪ/[edit | edit source]
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/[edit | edit source]
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/
As schwa[edit | edit source]
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
Spelling anomaly[edit | edit source]
As /eɪ/: carburetorAmE
Silent "e"[edit | edit source]
Silent final "e"[edit | edit source]
See main article Silent e.
In addition to magic e (next section) we have examples like dance, horse, giraffe, little and have.
Magic e[edit | edit source]
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[edit | edit source]
See main article Past tense pronunciation.
- grabbed, liked, played, trapped
Other[edit | edit source]
- "er" as /r/: different, interest, preference, several
- improvement, lovely, movement, relatively, somebody, something, sometimes, vineyard
See also Varisyllabic words.
Combinations[edit | edit source]
ea[edit | edit source]
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
ee[edit | edit source]
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
ei[edit | edit source]
See main article Decoding exercises: "ei"
ey[edit | edit source]
See main article Decoding exercises: "ey"
eu[edit | edit source]
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
ew[edit | edit source]
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
er[edit | edit source]
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
Other[edit | edit source]
- /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
Homophones[edit | edit source]
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;
Respellings[edit | edit source]
Def Leppard, Deftones, Led Zeppelin, Megadeth
Anticipated pronunciation difficulties depending on L1[edit | edit source]
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.
Spanish[edit | edit source]
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).
References[edit | edit source]