So-called “long o”

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əʊ

cold /kəʊld/

The so-called “long o” sound is an informal term that means the long sound of the letter o which is IPA phoneme /əʊ/, as in stone, cold or hotel.

In the case of o as /əʊ/ it is said that the letter “says its name”. In the case of stone or bone it is said that the magic e “makes the letter say its name”

The terms “long o” and “short o” are not recommended because the opposition between /əʊ/ and /ɒ/ (“short o) is not only a difference in length, but mainly a difference in quality. Instead of saying “crow is pronounced with long o” it would be better to say “crow is pronounced with the GOAT vowel”. Alternatively it could be said “crow is pronounced like the long sound of the letter o”.

Common words

  • with magic e: alone, bone, close, home, hope, note, phone, promote, stone, suppose, those, whole, zone
  • with final e: noble
  • ending in consonants: bold, both, control, don't, fold, gold, gross, hold, host, most, old , post, roll, poll, won't
  • mid position: global, local, mobile, moment, motivate, notable, only, open, over, social, slogan, soldier
  • ending in "o": ago, also, go, no, photo, potato, radio, so, video

“Long o” 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 o is found in combinations sounding /əʊ/, the term “long o” is used as well.

  • "oa": approach, boat, coach, coal, coat, coast, float, foam, goal, goat, load, loan, oats, road, roast, throat, toast
  • "oe": toe, goes

The cases of "ou" and "ow" don't not follow this rule, because these combinations normally sound /aʊ/ as in "mouth" or "brown". Therefore in the following cases, it is better to say that "ou" or "ow" sound as the vowel of GOAT.

  • "ou": although, dough, shoulder, soul, though
  • "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


See also

“Short” “Long” Long rhotic monophthong
“Short” vowel spelling
Rhotic diphthong
“Long” vowel spelling
Short monophtong
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