So-called “long e”

From Teflpedia


here /hɪər/

we /wiː/

The so-called “long e” sound is an informal term that means the long sound of the letter e which is IPA phoneme /iː/.

When studying magic e two vowel phonemes are called “long e”:

For /ɪə/ instead of “long e sound” it's better to say “long e spelling”.

In the case of e as /iː/ it is said that the letter “says its name”. In the case of theme or scheme it is said that the magic e “makes the letter say its name”

The term “long e” should only be used when the spelling is actually “e”. It's confusing to say "ski is pronounced with long e". If this sentence had to be spoken it would be better to say "ski is pronounced with the FLEECE vowel". Alternatively it could be said "ski is pronounced like the long sound of the letter e".

The term “long e” is not recommended because /iː/ and /ɪə/ are two phonemes, and not one; and because the opposition between /iː/ (or /ɪə/) and /e/ (“short e”) is not only a difference in length, but mainly a difference in quality.

“Long e” in combinations[edit]

When a combination of e and another letter has the sound /iː/ it is said that it has the “long e” sound. To explain this there is a saying, which unfortunately is true only 40% of the time: When two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking.

  • "ea": 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
Note that "ea" sounds /e/ in many exceptions such as head or ready.
  • "ee": agree - between - feel - free - keep - meet - need - see - seem - week
  • "ei": ceiling - conceive - receipt
Exceptions as /eɪ/: eight - neighbour - weight

See also[edit]

“Short” “Long” Long rhotic monophthong
“Short” vowel spelling
Rhotic diphthong
“Long” vowel spelling
Short monophtong
A /æ/ trap /eɪ/ face /ɑː/ start /eə/ square /æ/ carry
E /e/ dress /iː/ we /ɜː/ term /ɪə/ here /e/ cherry
I /ɪ/ kit /aɪ/ price /ɜː/ girl /aɪə/ fire /ɪ/ mirror
O /ɒ/ lot /əʊ/ hope /ɔː/ north /ɔː/ store /ɒ,BrE ɔːAmE/ torrid
U /ʌ/ strut /juː/ cute /ɜː/ nurse /jʊə/ cure /ʌ,BrE ɜːAmE/ hurry