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

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"When two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking" is a spelling 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: head, chief, pause, out, biscuit.

The first one does the talking

  • "ai" /eɪ/: aid - train - wait
  • "ea" /iː/: beach - clean - dream
/e/: bread - health - leather
/eɪ/: break - great - steak
  • "ee" /iː/: fee - keep - sleep
  • "oe" /əʊ/: toe - goat - foam
Exceptions: shoe - does - canoe
  • "ue" /(j)uː/: clue - due - blue

Miked results

  • "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

The rule doesn't work

  • "au" /ɔː/: cause - author
  • "oo"
/uː/ school - goose
/ʊ/: foot - good
  • "ou" /aʊ/: about - mouth
Exceptions: soup - through; could - should - would; country - double
Rule works for soul

Both vowels do the talking

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

  • "ew" /(j)uː/: few - flew - new
  • "oi" /ɔɪ/: choice


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