So-called “long u”
The so-called “long u” sound is an informal term that means the long sound of the letter u which is IPA phonetic sequence /juː/, as in cute or computer.
When studying magic e two phonemes are called “long u”, /uː/ and /ʊə/. However, they are usually part of sequences /juː/ and /jʊə/.
- As in cute, huge, or menu: IPA phonetic sequence /juː/
- As in flute, rude or conclusion: IPA phoneme /uː/
- As in cure, pure, or fury: IPA phonetic sequence /jʊə/
- As in sure or rural: IPA phoneme /ʊə/
For /uː/, /ʊə/ and /jʊə/ instead of “long u sound” it's better to say “long u spelling”.
In the case of u as /juː/ it is said that the letter “says its name”. In the case of cute or huge it is said that the magic e “makes the letter say its name”.
The term “long u” should only be used when the spelling is actually “u”. It's confusing to say "few is pronounced with long u". If this sentence had to be spoken it would be better to say "few is pronounced with the vowel of cute. Alternatively it could be said "few is pronounced like the long sound of the letter u".
The terms “long u” and “short u” are not recommended because /juː/, /uː/, /jʊə/ and /ʊə/ are different sounds, because /juː/ is better studied as two separate phonemes (/j/ and /uː/), and because the opposition between /juː/ and /ʌ/ (“short u”) is not only a difference in length, but mainly a difference in quality.
- /juː/: community, computer, cute, future, huge, human, menu, music, produce, student, use
- /uː/: flute, conclusion, include, June, rude, rule, truth
- /jʊə/: cure, during, fury, pure, secure, security
- /ʊə/: assure, ensure, insurance, rural, sure
“Long u” in combinations
When children learn to read they are sometimes told a supposed rule (that holds true only 40% of the time) which says "when two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking". For this or for other reasons, when u is found in combinations sounding /juː/ or /uː/, the term “long u” is used as well.
- ue: /juː/: argue, cue, hue
- /uː/: blue, clue, issue, true
- ui: /uː/: cruise, juice
- /juː/ or /uː/: suit
|“Short”||“Long”||Long rhotic monophthong
“Short” vowel spelling
“Long” vowel spelling
|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|