IPA phoneme /eɪ/
In English, both in Received Pronunciation and in General American, the IPA phonetic symbol /eɪ/ corresponds to the vowel sound in words like "face", "cake" and "play". This diphthong is informally called “long a” or the long sound of the letter a. A better pronounceable name is the vowel of FACE.
In strict IPA diphthongs need an inverted breve under their less prominent vowel: /eɪ̯/. However in English no vowel can follow /e/, and therefore the inverted breve can be omitted.
In Australian English this phoneme sounds [æɪ̯], which may be confused with /aɪ/. However /aɪ/ in Australian English sounds [ɑe̯]. In Estuary English there is a similar phenomenon: /eɪ/ sounds [ʌɪ̯] and /aɪ/ sounds [ɑɪ̯].
Some common words which practice the pronunciation of /eɪ/ include the following:
- with "a"
- with magic e: ache - age - blame - brake - cake - case - date - escape - face - game - gate - lake - late - male - make - name - pale - place - plate - sale - same - sane - snake - stale - state - take - whale
- Followed by one consonant: behaviorAmE - behaviourBrE - education - information - nature - paper - patient
- Other: able - ancient - change - range - strange - table
- with "ai": aid - aim - brain - chain - claim - detail - explain - fail - gain - hail - jail - main - paid - rain - raise - remain - snail - stain - straight - train - trait - wait - wave
- with "ay": always, away, day, delay, essay, display, AmE, lay, may, maybe, okay, pay, pray, play, say, stay, today, tray, way
- with "ei": eight - neighborAmE - neighbourBrE - weigh - weighed - weight
- with "ey": greyBrE - hey - survey - they
- with "ea": break - great - steak
Less common words
- with "a"
- Followed by one consonant: cooperation, creative, major, Pennsylvania, Wales
- Followed by several consonants: angel, Cambridge, chamber
- With magic e: bathe, chase, fade, gaze, indicate, mate, pace, pale, sake, shade, slave, spade, stake, tale, trace
- with "ai": constraint, entertainment, grain, jail, maintenance, plain, praise, rail, retail, sail, Spain, strain, sustain, tail, trail, Ukraine
- with "ae": Mae, reggae
- with "ay": essay, hay, Malaysia, Norway, pray, Raymond
- with "ey": obey
- with "ee": Beethoven /ˈbeɪˌtəʊvən/
- others: ballet, café, eh (interjection)
brake - break; grate - great; male - mail; place - plaice (fish); plane - plain; rain - reign; sail - sale; steak - stake; tale - tail; wave - waive; waste - waist; Wales - whales; weigh - way; weight - wait; weighed - wade.
Unstressed /eɪ/, /iː/ or /ɪ/
Many words ending in day can be pronounced with three pronunciations:
- Monday /ˈmʌndeɪ, ˈmʌndiː, ˈmʌndɪ/ - Tuesday /ˈt(j)uːzdeɪ, ˈt(j)uːzdiː, ˈt(j)uːzdɪ/ - Wednesday /ˈwenzdeɪ, ˈwenzdiː, ˈwenzdɪ/ - Thursday - Friday - Saturday - Sunday
- yesterday /ˈyestərˌdeɪ, ˈyestərdiː, ˈyestərdɪ/
- holiday /ˈhɒlədeɪ,BrE AmE ˈhɒlədiː,BrE ˈhɒlədɪBrE/
Words with only one pronunciation, ending in /deɪ/
- birthday - doomsday - everyday - holidayAmE - payday - today - weekday
Very often /eɪ/ is spelled "a". Almost never "a" as /eɪ/ is followed by a double consonant. A consonant is never doubled in derived words: rate - rated; make - maker. A double consonant indicates that the "a" is pronounced /æ/ or, less often, /ɑː/.
|Followed by a single consonant||Followed by a double consonant|
|/eɪ/||information - make - maker - paper||bass (in music)|
|/æ/||family - travel - value||happy - matter - planned|
- gauge /ɡeɪdʒ/
- gaolBrE now replaced by jail
- San Jose (California) /ˌsæn hoʊˈzeɪ/
Several words derived from French have "é", "ê" or "et" pronounced /eɪ/.
- ballet, beret, buffet, café, cliché, crème brûlée, crêpe/crepe, décor/decor, déjà vu, entrée, fiancé, fiancée, flambé, gourmet, protégé, protégée, sauté, touché
- elite, élite: /eɪˈliːt, ɪˈliːt/
- resumé, résumé, resume: /ˈrezjʊmeɪ, ˈrezʊmeɪ, ˈrezəmeɪ, ˌrezʊˈmeɪ/
- other: lingerie /ˌlɑːndʒəˈreɪ,AmE ˈlænʒəriːBrE/
/e/ and /eɪ/
See main article IPA phonetic symbol [ɛ]
Phoneme /e/ (as in dress) in many dialects is very different from the the beginning of /eɪ/. In IPA narrow notation [e] represents a sound that does not exist isolated in English, the "é" sound in French, as in beauté (beauty). In broad notation it doesn't matter if, for simplicity, we use /e/ for a different sound (namely [ɛ]) as in English dress or "ê" in French, as in bête (animal).
/eɪ/ vs. /ə/
- administrative /ədˈmɪnɪˌstreɪtɪv,AmE ədˈmɪnɪstrətɪvBrE/
- authoritative /ɔːˈθɒrəˌteɪtɪvAmE, ɔːˈθɒrətətɪvBrE/
- imitative /ˈɪmɪˌteɪtɪv,AmE ˈɪmɪtətɪvBrE/
- portrait /ˈpɔːrtreɪt,BrE ˈpɔːrtrətAmE/
- apricot /ˈeɪprɪkɒt,BrE ˈæprɪkɒtAmE/
- basil /ˈbeɪzəl,AmE ˈbæzəl/
- expatriate /ˌeksˈpeɪtriət,AmE ˌeksˈpætriətBrE/
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.
While /eɪ/ is virtually the same as the Spanish diphthong "ei", many Spanish speakers have difficulty remembering that the most common spelling for this sound is "a". For example, the movie The Matrix /ˈmeɪtrɪks/ was released as Matrix in most of the world, and the pronunciation used when speaking Spanish is [ˈmatrɪks]. Similarly "catering" /ˈkeɪtərɪŋ/ is [ˈkaterin] in Spanish, and sometimes it is even spelled "cáterin".
- Diccionario panhispánico de dudas, cáterin.
- Decoding the letter A
- Decoding and spelling exercises: /æ/ vs /eɪ/
- Decoding exercises: "ai"
- Decoding exercises: "ay"
- Decoding exercises: "ei"
- Pronunciation exercises: /eɪ/ vs /aɪ/
- Silent e