When two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking

From Teflpedia

"When two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking" is a rule used when teaching English-speaking children that says that when there are two vowels in a word the first one has the so-called "long" sound of the vowel (or alphabet name), and the second one is not pronounced.

For example, in train the a has the so-called “long a sound and i does not sound. The same happens for each, die, goat, and rescue.

Unfortunately, this rule is false 60% of the time.[1] Counterexamples: pause, head, chief, out, biscuit.

The first one does the talking[edit]

IPA vowels
æ ɑː
trap father - start
e
dress face square
ɪ ɪə
kit fleece near
ɒ əʊ ɔː
lot goat taught
ʊ ʊə
foot goose mature
juː jʊə
cute cure
ʌ ə ɜː
strut comma nurse
ɔɪ
price mouth choice
  • "ai" /eɪ/: Adelaide, afraid, aid, aim, available, brain, campaign, chain, claim, complain, contain, daily, detail, entertain, explain, fail, faith, gain, hail, Haiti, jail, mail, main, Maine, maintain, paid, pain, paint, rail, rain, raise, remain, retail, snail, Spain, stain, straight, train, trait, wait
Exceptions: said /sed/ - again /əˈɡen, əˈɡeɪn/ ;
  • "ee" /iː/: agree - between - deep - degree - fee - feed - feel - free - green - indeed - keep - meet - need - screen - see - seek - seem - sleep - speech - speed - street - tree - week
  • "oa" /əʊ/: approach, boat, coach, coal, coat, coast, float, foam, goal, goat, load, loan, oats, road, roast, throat, toast
  • "oe" /əʊ/: goes - heroes - potatoes - toe - tomatoes
Exceptions: shoe - does (verb) - canoe
  • "ue" /(j)uː/: blue - clue - continue - due - value

Mixed results[edit]

  • "ea"
    • /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
    • /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
    • /eɪ/: break - great - steak
  • "ei"
/iː/: ceiling - conceive - receipt
/eɪ/: eight - neighbour - weigh
  • "eo"
/iː/: people
/e/: leopard
Both vowels do the talking: video - theory
  • "ie"
/aɪ/: lies - fried
/iː/: chief - field
  • "ui"
/(j)uː/: bruise - fruit - suite
/ɪ/: biscuit - circuit
/uːɪ/: altruism - fluid - ruin - suicide
/wɪ/: anguish - liquid - penguin - quick

The rule doesn't work[edit]

  • "au"
/ɔː/ cause - author
/eɪ/ gauge
  • "oo"
/uː/ school - goose
/ʊ/: foot - good
  • "ou" /aʊ/: about - mouth
Exceptions: soup - through; could - should - would; country - double
Rule works for soul, but it is better to teach "ou" as a phonogram,[1] and therefore soul is an exception.

Both vowels do the talking[edit]

With a little imagination, instead of exceptions the following patterns are examples of rules for diphthongs.

References[edit]

  1. 1.0 1.1 All about Learning Press, When Two Vowels Go Walking

See also[edit]