Introduction to Long Vowels

Introduction to the main features of the five long vowel sounds: long a / /, long a /eɪ/, long e /i/, long i /ɑɪ/, long o /oʊ/, and long u /ju/. Video includes a common spelling pattern, a caution against non-phonetic words, and two-sound long vowels.

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Hi again, and welcome back to Seattle Learning Academy's American English pronunciation podcast. My name is Mandy and this is our 89th podcast, and our 13th video podcast.

This podcast is the complete video for our Introduction to Long Vowels video lesson. You can find the video, without this podcast introduction and conclusion, on our Introduction to Long Vowels lesson. The transcripts for this video can be found, along with all of our podcast transcripts, at

Here's the video.

Introduction to long vowels

Long vowels sound like the names of the letters that represent them: a /eɪ/, e /i/, i /ɑɪ/, o /oʊ/, and u/ju/.

Students often find it helpful to memorize a key word to help identify and compare vowel sounds. The following are the key words used on the Pronuncian website:

The long a sounds like (long a). It is the vowel sound in the word cake (k sound, long a, k sound) cake.

The long e sounds like (long e) and is the vowel sound in the word keep (k sound, long e, p sound) keep.

The long i sounds like (long i) and is the vowel sound in the word bike (b sound, long i, k sound) bike.

The long o sounds like (long o) and is the vowel sound in the word home (h sound, long o, m sound) home.

The long u sounds like (long u) and is the vowel sound in the word cute (k sound, long u, t sound) cute.

Duration of long vowels

"Long vowel" does not mean that the sound is said for a longer period of time than other vowel sounds. It's very important to realize that, in English, the term long vowel is merely a name given to the sounds a, e, i, o, and u. It is not in any way related to the amount of time each vowel is pronounced within a word.

vowel-consonant-e pattern

The vowel-consonant-e pattern states that when a single vowel is followed by a single consonant, then the letter e, the first vowel is usually said as a long vowel and the letter e is silent. This spelling pattern is true for all long vowels, though it isn't often used for the long e sound.

The key words for the long a, long i, long o, and long u demonstrate the VCe pattern:


Each long vowel sound has additional common spellings beyond the vowel-consonant-e pattern that must be memorized individually when each sound is studied. Only the vowel-consonant-e pattern is universal among long vowel spellings.

Non-phonetic words

It's important to realize that English spelling patterns may lead to incorrect assumptions, as there are many non-phonetic words in English. Non-phonetic words are not pronounced as they are spelled.

To compare phonetic and non-phonetic words, let's analyze the following sets of words. The words on the left are phonetic. They are spelled vowel-consonant-e, and are pronounced with a long vowel sound. The words on the right are also spelled vowel-consonant-e, but are not pronounced with a long vowel sound. They are non-phonetic.

five, give
bone, none
gave, have

Non-native speakers should rely on spelling patterns only as guidelines, and must learn to hear sounds to fully understand each word's pronunciation.

Two-Sound vowels

A two-sound vowel is a vowel sound that includes a y sound or a w sound in the pronunciation. Often, the y sound or w sound is only a minor part of the sound, but it must be included for the sound to be pronounced fully.

Four of the five long vowel sounds are pronounced as two-sound vowels.

The long a sound ends with a brief y sound (long a).
Listen closely:

cake (k sound, long a, k sound) cake (long a)

The long i sound ends with a brief y sound (long i).
Listen closely:

bike (b sound, long i, k sound) bike (long i)

The long o sound ends with a brief w sound (long o).
Listen closely:

home (h sound, long o, m sound) home (long o)

The long u sound begins with a brief y sound (long u).
Listen closely:

cute (k sound, long u, t sound) cute (long u)

Next steps

After gaining an overall understanding of long vowels, it's time to explore each individual long vowel sound, it's common spellings, and its high-frequency non-phonetic words.

Pronuncian subscribers should take the long vowels pre-quiz to check current understanding of long vowels. Quiz results are tied to recommendations pages, and will assist in deciding which lessons to study next.


If you want to take the long vowels pre-quiz to check your basic understanding of all five long vowel sounds, just sign up for a Pronuncian subscription. A six-month subscription costs only $15 per month and you get full access to all of Pronuncian's exercises, quizzes, and videos, and you can track your progress in your account information page. Go to

Thanks all for today everyone, thanks for listening.

This has been a Seattle Learning Academy digital publication. SLA is where the world comes to learn.


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About the ESL/ELL Teacher

Mandy has been teaching ESL, pronunciation and accent reduction since 2005 at Seattle Learning Academy, an English language school in Seattle, Washington, USA. She uses her experience with intermediate to advanced students to create the topics that most affect students living and working in the United States and can help them communicate better and more clearly.

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