IPA phoneme /əʊ/

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Revision as of 20:21, 8 August 2016 by (talk) (Common words)

Strict IPA

əʊ ̯   oʊ ̯   

goat /gəʊ ̯  t, goʊ ̯  t/


goat /goʊt/



goat /gəʊt/

In Received Pronunciation and in General American the IPA phonetic symbol /əʊ/ corresponds to the vowel sound in words like "goat", "note", and "know". The actual sound is [əʊ], [ɜʊ][1] or [əw][2] in Received Pronunciation and [oʊ] or [ow] in General American. See IPA phonetic symbol [w].

The habitual notation for General American is /oʊ/, however in a broad notation /əʊ/ can be used; it could also be the other way around, using /oʊ/ for both General American and Received Pronunciation. In this website /əʊ/ is used.

In strict IPA diphthongs need an inverted breve under their less prominent vowel: /əʊ ̯  / or /oʊ ̯  /. However in English a single /o/ is never used and the sequence /əʊ/ can only be interpreted as a diphthong. This means the inverted breve can be omitted in both conventions, British and American.

This diphthong is informally called “long O”. A better pronounceable name is the vowel of GOAT.

Common words

Some common words which practice the pronunciation of /əʊ/ include the following:

  • with "o"+magic e: alone - bone - close - code - episode - hole - home - hope - joke - lone - note - phone - role - stone - phone - pole - smoke - stole - tose - vote - whole
  • with "o": almost - associate - both - don't - focus - ghost - host - local - moment - most - notice - only - open - over - program - social - total - won't
ending in "o": ago - go - no - so
with "ol": control - fold - gold - hold - old - sold - soldier - told
anomalies with "o" and a double consonant: gross - poll - roll - toll
  • with "oa": boat - coat - goal - goat - road - roast - throat - toast
  • with "oe": goes - Joe - toe
  • with "ow": arrow, below, blow, borrow, bowl, crow, elbow, fellow, flow, follow, grow, grown, growth, know, low, narrow, owe, own, row (line), shadow, show, slow, snow, throw, tomorrow, tow, window, yellow
  • with "ou": although - dough - shoulder - soul - though
  • homophones: groan - grown; hole - whole; know - no; loan - lone; pole - poll; road - rode; role - roll; so - sew - sow; sole - soul; toe - tow;

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.


Spanish has many diphthongs with "u" and "i", and the only combinations that don't exist are "iu" [iw] and "ou" [ow].[3] The lack of [ow] explains why, even if they are fully capable of pronouncing [ow] (and hence /əʊ/) Spanish speakers tend to use the monophthong [o] which is very similar to /ɒ/, i.e. without practice, they tend not to distinguish between "not" and "note" or, even between "want" and "won't". At the end of the word they have no problems; the Spanish pronunciation for the loan word show is [tʃow].

See also

Notes and references

  1. John Wells, IPA transcription systems for English, 2001-08-03.
  2. Geoff Lindsey, The British English vowel system, 8 March 2012.
  3. List of Spanish diphthongs
    • [Vj]: "ai" as in baile, "ei" as in reina, "oi" as in boina, "ui" as in cuido
    • [Vw]: "au" as in auto, "eu" as in Eugenia
    • [jV]: "ia" as in viaje, "ie" as in ciego, "io" as in piojo, "iu" as in ciudad
    • [wV]: "ua" as in cuadro, "ue" as in cuento, "ui" as in ruido, "uo" as in cuota

External links