Template:Magic e summary

From Teflpedia

English vowel letters AEIOU can be classified as having "a long sound" and "a short sound". See So-called “short” and “long” vowels. They also have more sounds, but the convention is as follows.

1. Short sound trap /æ/ dress /e/ kit /ɪ/ lot /ɒ/ strut /ʌ/
2.a Long sound or "name sound" face /eɪ/ theme /iː/ price /aɪ/ bone /əʊ/ cute /juː/, flute /uː/
2.b Long sound before "r" care /eə/ here /ɪə/ fire /aɪə/ store /ɔː/, /oə/ in some accents cure /jʊə/

In the first line each vowel has its "normal" sound, a short monophthong. In the second line each vowel has the same sound as the name of the letter in the English alphabet. The sounds of the second line are longer than the ones of the first line.

"Magic e" (silent e at the end of the word) makes the vowel "say its name",[1] or "makes the vowel long", which should be understood as moving in the table from the first row to the second, and not as lengthening the vowel. What is meant by “long E” is not that /iː/ is a long version of /e/, but actually "the long sound of the letter E".

Similarly, what is meant by “short I” is not that /ɪ/ is a short version of /aɪ/, but actually "the short sound of the letter I".

Therefore, "the long vowels" actually means "the long sounds of vowel letters", and "the short vowels" are "the short sounds of vowel letters".

Note that in phonetics "long vowel" means literally a vowel that is long, i.e., /ɑː, iː, ɔː, uː/ or /ɜː/.


rat vs rate - cap vs cape - can vs cane
bed - hotel - stem - then - get vs theme - scene - complete
bit vs bite - quit vs quite
dog - alcohol - shop - lot vs code - smoke - home - phone - suppose
cub vs cube - cut vs cute

The pattern vowel + consonant + “e” = long sound of the vowel is reliable enough to be taught. Examples of exceptions are: have - college - machine - gone - lettuce.

The converse pattern vowel + consonants = short sound of the vowel is less reliable, but should also be taught.

Magic e exceptionally works in other situations:

  • more than one consonant: able - change - paste; title; noble;
  • no consonant: Mae - sundae
  • no consonant (redundant): bee - fee; lie - tie; doe - toe; clue - issue


See also[edit]

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