English Vowels IPA & EXAMPLES

See & Hear Examples of English Vowel Sounds IPA  

With Voice Recorder & Audio Files

 

In this post you’re going to see how English vowel sounds are written using IPA symbols, so in the International Phonetic Alphabet.

You’ll see examples in words of how the IPA symbol for each English vowel sounds is used. You can listen to each vowel sound pronounced by a native English speaker, practise your pronunciation of each vowel sound and download our English Vowel Sounds Chart.  

What are the English Vowel Sound IPA symbols (International Phonetic Alphabet)? English has 20 vowel sounds. Short vowels in the IPA are /ɪ/-pit, /e/-pet, /æ/-pat, /ʌ/-cut, /ʊ/-put, /ɒ/-dog, /ə/-about. Long vowels in the IPA are /i:/-week, /ɑ:/-hard,/ɔ:/-fork,/ɜ:/-heard, /u:/-boot. Diphthong vowels in the IPA are /eɪ/-place, /oʊ/-home, /aʊ/-mouse, /ɪə/-clear, /eə/-care, /ɔɪ/-boy, /aɪ/-find, /ʊə/-tour.

I understand that to many people that can look a little overwhelming. But I promise it’s not so bad. We’ll break it down and give you real examples and practise. 

If you want to know more about how to actually use the symbols to improve your pronunciation and English accent, see our guide for learners on using the IPA – “English Pronunciation – How to Use the IPA To Improve”

Before we start, let’s cover some International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) basics. 

What is the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) used for? Learners of foreign languages use the IPA to check exactly how words are pronounced. Each IPA symbol represents a sound. For example, a learner of English can use the IPA to find out exactly what sounds are in a word and where the word stress is. It is an extremely helpful tool for people learning to speak another language. 

Why is the IPA important for learning English pronunciation? The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) is very important for learners of English because English is not a phonetic language. The spelling of an English word doesn’t tell us how to pronounce it. In English, several different letter combinations can be used to spell the same sound and there are silent letters. The IPA tells us the correct sounds and word stress for pronouncing English words. 

Let’s look at the English vowel sounds IPA symbols more closely, starting with short vowels. 

English Short Vowels in the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet)

What you need to know about . 

– a short English vowel is noticeably shorter than a long vowel
– an English short vowel is made with only one mouth position
– one mouth position is represented by one IPA symbol (every sound /mouth position has a different IPA symbol) 
– the weak vowel schwa is the most common vowel in English. 

What Are the English Short Vowels in the IPA? There are 7 IPA symbols for English short vowels. The IPA for English short vowels are:  /ɪ/, /e/, /æ/, /ʌ/, /ʊ/ , /ɒ/, /ə/

English Vowel IPA Examples – Short Single Vowels

Vowel Phonetic Symbol   &    IPA Examples in Words

/ɪ/   – fit /fiːt/, pick /piːk/, difficult /ˈdɪ.fɪ.kəlt/
/e/  –  pet /pet/, sent /sent/, attention /əˈten.ʃən/
/æ/ – pat /pæt/, flat /flæt/, family /ˈfæ.mə.li/
/ʌ/   – cut /kʌt/ jump /ʌmp/, cover 
/ˈkʌ.vər/
/ʊ/   – put /pʊt/, book /bʊk/, cushion /ˈkʊ.ʃən/
/ɒ/   – pot /pɒt/, dog /dɒg/, hospital /ˈhɒs.pɪ.təl/
/ə/   – about /əˈbaʊt/, system /ˈsɪs.təm/, complete /kəmˈpliːt/. 

More Examples of English Short Vowels in the IPA – Listen & Record

See the IPA symbol for each vowel at the top of each blue box. With each of the boxes below you can revise and practise English vowels phonetics.

See the phonetic symbol for each vowel sound, see International Phonetic Alphabet examples in 4 commonly used words, click to hear it pronounced and record your own pronunciation. 

Click to below to hear each short English vowel pronunciation with English vowel phonetics. 

/ɪ/
hit | pick | miss | tip

/e/
let | neck | mess | wet

/æ/
sat | back | hat | cap

/ɒ/
hot | sock | boss | top

/ʌ/
cut | luck | fuss | cup

/ʊ/
put | look | cook | good

/ə/ – schwa
This vowel is in many weak syllables:
apart | pilot | carrot | minute

English Long Vowels in the IPA 


What you need to know. 

– English long vowels have two dots like this – /:/ after the vowel symbol. If it has /:/ after it, you know it’s a long vowel!
– English long vowels are noticeably longer than short vowels.
– distinguishing between short and long vowels is very important in English because they mean different words. eg ship and sheep, sh*t and sheet, wick and week and so on. 
– an English long vowel is only one symbol in the IPA because it is one mouth position. 

KEY POINT: When you are looking at the vowels in the IPA to help you with your pronunciation, if you see the two dots /:/ you need to check you are making a long vowel, not a short vowel or a double vowel. 

English Vowel IPA Examples – Long Single Vowels


Vowel Phonetic Symbol   &    IPA Examples in Words

/i:/     week /wi:k/, feet /fi:t/, media /ˈmiː.di.jə/
/ɑ:/    hard /ha:/, park /pa:k/, article /ɑː.tɪ.kəl/
/ɔ:/    fork /fɔ:k/, walk /wɔ:k/, August /ɔːˈɡʌst/
/ɜ:/   heard /hɜ:d/, word /wɜ:d/, surface /ˈsɜː.fɪs/
/u:/   boot /bu:t/, group /gru:p/,  beautiful /ˈbjuː.tɪ.fəl/

What are English Long Vowels in the IPA? There are 5 IPA symbols for English long vowels. The IPA for English long vowels are: /i:/, /ɑ:/, /ɔ:/, /ɜ:/, /u:/. 

More Examples of Long English Vowels in the IPA 

Use the boxes below to revise and practise each of the long English vowels phonetics.

See the phonetic symbol for each vowel sound at the top of each box, see IPA vowel examples of it in 4 common English words, click to hear it pronounced and record your own pronunciation. 

ACHTUNG!

As you listen to the IPA examples and practise out loud, pay careful attention to the length of each vowel. 

Many non-native speakers of English make many of these vowels too short!

Before you start with the activties below say the words below out loud and pay attention to the length of the vowel. 

Here are some examples of long vowels in contrast with a shorter version, which actually means another word!

Notice that the long vowels all have the two dots /:/. All of these short vowels and long vowels are SINGLE vowels  – they ony have one IPA vowel symbol. This means they only have one mouth position. 

Short Vowel    vs     Long Vowel

hit /hɪt/           –      heat /hiːt/
pick /pɪk/       –      peak /piːk/
lick /lɪk/          –      leak /liːck/

duck /dʌk/     –   dark /da:k
stuff /stʌf/      –   staff /sta:f/

Make sure you are clearly making a short vowel and a long vowel – these two words should sound different. If they are sounding the same, do some more practise with the IPA Short Vowel Examples and the IPA Long Vowel Examples until you can more easily hear and make the right vowel length.  

Click to below to listen to long English vowel pronunciation with IPA – English vowel phonetics. 

/i:/
heat | peak | piece | leak

/a:/
start | dark | glass | laugh

/u:/
suit | threw | juice | room

/ɔ:/
caught | pork | horse | form

/ɜ:/
hurt | work | nurse | sir

See English Long Vowels in the IPA in the dictionary. 

See an example of how long vowels are shown in English dictionaries in the diagram below. This IPA example is from the free Cambridge Online Dictionary. The Cambridge Online Dictionary is an excellent reliable and free online dictionary that you can use to see the IPA for English words. 

The Cambridge Online Dictionary is very helpful because it shows the IPA for British English and American English and you can listen to the pronunciation of each word in an American and British accent. 

See the screen shot below of how English long vowels are shown in the IPA in the dictionary. I’ve labelled the marker for Word Stress in the IPA and also schwa. Schwa is the name of this symbol /ə/, it’s the most important weak vowel in English. 

You’ll see that after the symbol for the vowel /ɔ/ there’s two dots /:/. These two dots show that the vowel is long.   

English Diphthong or Double Vowels in the IPA 

What you need to know. 

– English diphthong vowels have two IPA symbols because they are made up of two mouth position.
– in other words, diphthong vowels are two short vowels joined together, they are also called double vowels.
– many non-native speakers make some English diphthong vowels as single vowels

English Vowel IPA Examples – Diphthong (double) Vowels

Vowel Phonetic Symbol   &    IPA Examples in Words

/eɪ/     place /pleɪs/, late /leɪt/, dangerous /ˈdeɪn.dʒə.rəs/
/oʊ/    home /hoʊm/, phone /foʊn/, global /ˈɡloʊ.bəl/
/aʊ/    mouse /maʊs/, brown /braʊn/, accountant /əˈkaʊn.t̬ənt/
/ɪə/    clear /klɪə/, fear /fɪə/,  career /kəˈrɪə/
/eə/   care /keə/, wear /weə/, declare /dɪˈkleə/
/ɔɪ/    boy /bɔɪ/, toy /tɔɪ/, enjoyable /ɪnˈdʒɔɪ.jə.bəl/
/aɪ/    find /faɪnd/, bite /baɪt/, tiger  /ˈtaɪ.ɡə/
/ʊə/   tour /tʊə/, pure /pʊə/,  mature /məˈtʃʊə/


What are English Diphthong Vowels in the IPA? There are 8 IPA symbols for English Diphthong vowels. The IPA for English Diphthong vowels are: /eɪ/, /oʊ/, /aʊ/, /ɪə/, /eə/, /ɔɪ/, /aɪ/, /ʊə/.  

More English Vowels IPA Examples – Diphthong Vowels

Use the boxes below to revise and practise each of the English vowels phonetics for double vowels in English.

See the phonetic symbol for each vowel sound at the top of each box, see IPA vowel examples of it in 4 common English words, click to hear it pronounced and record your own pronunciation. 

ACHTUNG!

As you listen to the IPA examples, listen carefully to hear the two vowel sounds in each. 

Can you hear the two vowels?

Many people make a single vowel, instead of a double vowel. This happens because the English double vowel doesn’t exist in their first language. 

This makes many of their words unclear. For example, when they say ‘coat’ it sounds more like ‘cot’, when they say ‘note’ it sounds more like ‘not’, when they say ‘won’t’ it sounds more like ‘want’ – Video on pronouncing ‘won’t’ vs ‘want’

As you go through, feel the two positions in each double vowel.   

Click to below to hear each double / diphthong English vowel pronunciation with English vowel phonetics. 

/aɪ/
light | like | rice | ripe

/eɪ/
late | lake | race | train

/ɔɪ/
boy | join | choice | noise

/aʊ/
about | found | house | down


See 
English Diphthong Vowels in the IPA in the dictionary. 

See an example of how diphthong vowels or double vowels are shown in dictionaries in the diagram below.
This IPA example is from the free Cambridge Online Dictionary. The Cambridge Online Dictionary is a reliable and free site that you can use to check the pronunciation of English words. 

It shows the IPA for American English and British English and you can click to hear the word pronounced in both American and British accents. 

See a screen shot of how English diphthong and double vowels are shown in the IPA in the dictionary below. I’ve labelled the marker for Word Stress in the IPA and also schwa, the most important weak vowel in English. 

English Vowel Sounds Chart PDF 

Here is a clear English Vowel Sounds Chart with IPA Symbols. 

Many ESL speakers find this English Vowel Sounds Chart extremely helpful. 

English Vowels Sounds Chart pdf. 

And there you have it!

All the English Vowel Sounds IPA, clearly shown with each International Phonetic Alphabet Symbol. 

I hope the images and information in this article will help you understand the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) for English Vowels and how to use the IPA to improve your pronunciation of vowel sounds in English.

The IPA is a powerful tool that can be seriously helpful to learners. 

Georgie’s Tips For Using The IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) To Improve Your Pronunciation:

Remember that even if you don’t know every symbol you should still use the IPA for important information such as:  

– the /:/ tells you when there is a long vowel
– two symbols means it’s a double or diphthong vowel 
– /’/ is for word stress and tells you the next syllable is stressed

All the best. 

x

Georgie 

 

 

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