IPA phoneme /eɪ/

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Revision as of 22:06, 26 August 2016 by (talk) (Common words)

Strict IPA

eɪ ̯  

day /deɪ ̯  /


day /deɪ/

In English, both in Received Pronunciation and in General American, the IPA phonetic symbol /eɪ/ corresponds to the vowel sound in words like "face", "cake" and "play". This diphthong is informally called “long a” or the long sound of the letter a. A better pronounceable name is the vowel of FACE.

In strict IPA diphthongs need an inverted breve under their less prominent vowel: /eɪ ̯  /. However in English no vowel can follow /e/, and therefore the inverted breve can be omitted.

In Australian English this phoneme sounds [æɪ ̯  ], which may be confused with /aɪ/. However /aɪ/ in Australian English sounds [ɑe̯]. In Estuary English there is a similar phenomenon: /eɪ/ sounds [ʌɪ ̯  ] and /aɪ/ sounds ɪ ̯  ].

Common words

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

  • with "a"
with magic e: ache - age - blame - brake - cake - case - date - escape - face - game - gate - lake - late - male - make - name - pale - place - plate - sale - same - sane - snake - stale - state - take - whale
Followed by one consonant: behaviorAmE - behaviourBrE - education - information - nature - paper - patient -
Other: able - ancient - change - range - strange - table
  • with "ai": aid - aim - brain - chain - claim - detail - explain - fail - gain - hail - jail - main - paid - rain - raise - remain - snail - stain - straight - train - trait - Ukraine - wait - wave
  • with "ay": always, away, day, delay, essay, display, grayAmE, lay, Malaysia, may, maybe, Norway, okay, pay, pray, play, Raymond, say, stay, today, tray, way
  • with "ei": eight - neighborAmE - neighbourBrE - weigh - weighed - weight
  • with "ey": greyBrE - hey - survey - they
  • with "ea": break - great - steak
  • with "ee": Beethoven /ˈbeɪˌtəʊvən/
  • others: ballet - café
  • homophones: brake - break; grate - great; male - mail; place - plaice (fish); plane - plain; rain - reign; sail - sale; steak - stake; tale - tail; wave - waive; waste - waist; Wales - whales; weigh - way; weight - wait; weighed - wade.

Unstressed /eɪ/, /iː/ or /ɪ/

Many words ending in day can be pronounced with three pronunciations:

  • Monday /ˈmʌndeɪ, ˈmʌndiː, ˈmʌndɪ/ - Tuesday /ˈt(j)uːzdeɪ, ˈt(j)uːzdiː, ˈt(j)uːzdɪ/ - Wednesday /ˈwenzdeɪ, ˈwenzdiː, ˈwenzdɪ/ - Thursday - Friday - Saturday - Sunday
  • yesterday /ˈyestərˌdeɪ, ˈyestərdiː, ˈyestərdɪ/
  • holiday /ˈhɒlədeɪ,BrE AmE ˈhɒlədiː,BrE ˈhɒlədɪBrE/

Words with only one pronunciation, ending in /deɪ/

  • birthday - doomsday - everyday - holidayAmE - payday - today - weekday


Very often /eɪ/ is spelled "a". Almost never "a" as /eɪ/ is followed by a double consonant. A consonant is never doubled in derived words: rate - rated; make - maker. A double consonant indicates that the "a" is pronounced /æ/ or, less often, /ɑː/.

Followed by a single consonant Followed by a double consonant
/eɪ/ information - make - maker - paper bass (in music)
/æ/ family - travel - value happy - matter - planned

Uncommon spellings

  • gauge /ɡeɪdʒ/
  • gaolBrE now replaced by jail
  • San Jose (California) /ˌsæn hoʊˈzeɪ/

Several words derived from French have "é" or "et" pronounced /eɪ/.

  • ballet - beret - buffet - café - cliché - fiancé - fiancée - gourmet
  • resumé, résumé, resume: /ˈrezjʊmeɪ, ˈrezʊmeɪ, ˈrezəmeɪ, ˌrezʊˈmeɪ/
  • other: lingerie /ˌlɑːndʒəˈreɪ,AmE ˈlænʒəriːBrE/

/e/ and /eɪ/

See main article IPA phonetic symbol [ɛ]

Phoneme /e/ (as in dress) in many dialects is very different from the the beginning of /eɪ/. In IPA narrow notation [e] represents a sound that does not exist in English, the "é" sound in French, as in beauté (beauty). In broad notation it doesn't matter if, for simplicity, we use /e/ for a different sound (namely [ɛ]) as in English dress or "ê" in French, as in bête (animal).

Variant pronunciations

/eɪ/ vs. /ə/

  • administrative /ədˈmɪnɪˌstreɪtɪv,AmE ədˈmɪnɪstrətɪvBrE/
  • authoritative /ɔːˈθɒrəˌteɪtɪvAmE, ɔːˈθɒrətətɪvBrE/
  • imitative /ˈɪmɪˌteɪtɪv,AmE ˈɪmɪtətɪvBrE/
  • apricot /ˈeɪprɪkɒt,BrE ˈæprɪkɒtAmE/
  • basil /ˈbeɪzəl,AmE ˈbæzəl/
  • expatriate /ˌeksˈpeɪtriət,AmE ˌeksˈpætriətBrE/

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.


While /eɪ/ is virtually the same as the Spanish diphthong "ei", many Spanish speakers have difficulty remembering that the most common spelling for this sound is "a". For example, the movie The Matrix /ˈmeɪtrɪks/ was released as Matrix in most of the world, and the pronunciation used when speaking Spanish is [ˈmatrɪks]. Similarly "catering" /ˈkeɪtərɪŋ/ is [ˈkaterin] in Spanish, and sometimes it is even spelled "cáterin".[1]


  1. Diccionario panhispánico de dudas, cáterin.

See also

External links