You don’t have to tell us twice that “u” is a funny vowel in English. That’s why we’ve come up with this guide to help you learn the “u” sound in English. Let’s think about the words full and fuel. Try saying them out loud. Can you notice the difference between the sound? The “u” in full is short while the “ue” in fuel is a long sound. Not to worry if you’re unsure about the difference! This post has plenty of example exercises to help you understand the difference between these two sounds in English.
Recap: the basics of English pronunciation
Remember, there are 26 letters in the English alphabet. Five of them are vowels (A, E, I, O, U) and 21 are consonants (B, C, D, F, G, H, J, K, L, M, N, P, Q, R, S, T, V, W, X, Y, Z). However, there are more than 40 vowel and consonant sounds in English. In some words, the number of letters is the same as the number of sounds. Other times, two letters make one sound (green for example). And often, you’ll find that some letters are silent, like the “t” in listen.
Another thing that can confuse English learners is when two words have the same spelling but different pronunciations. That happens with the words read in the present tense and read in the past tense. Also, some words have the same pronunciation but different spellings. That’s the case with know and no. You can learn more here about words that sound the same in English.
Do you still have questions about letters and sounds in English? We’ve got you covered! Read more about the basics English pronunciation, plus get some free practice exercises!
How to pronounce the long vowel sound /u:/
This “u” sound in English is often spelled as “oo”, “ou”, “oe”, “u”, “ue”, or “ew.” Some examples of words with this sound are:
Other spelling of this sound can be found in words like: two, fruit, and juice.
When the spelling is u or ew, it is common to hear the /j/ sound before the /u:/. Basically, it sounds like the word you. The /j/ sound is a consonant sound hear in words like yes, yellow, and yard. Take a look at some examples of the /j/ sound before the /u:/ sound:
How to say the short vowel sound /ʊ/ in English
We make this short sound in some words with the spellings “u”, “oo”, and “ou” in them. Here are a few examples:
Great online resources to help you pronounce any word
Whenever you are not sure about a word’s pronunciation, you can use a few resources to figure it out. First, you can type “pronunciation English [the word you want]” into Google and the first result that appears is the pronunciation of that word for you to hear. You can even choose to hear it the American way or the British way. It’s also possible to hear it slowly, which can definitely help you learn how to pronounce the word.
Another resource is YouTube. And that’s good for anything, really. Recently, I wanted to know how to pronounce the last name of a person I was going to have a meeting with. It was the first time we talked and I wanted to get her last name right. So, I searched on YouTube and found an interview with a person that had the same last name!
The best way to learn the “u” sound in English is by practicing! So take a look at these three exercises and see what you’ve learned so far.
Pronounciation exercise 1 – What “u” soun do you hear?
Exercise 2 – Speaking practice with “u”
Pronunciation exercise 3 – Drop the words in the correct box
First things first: you don’t have to pronounce all the words perfectly in order to be understood. We truly hope this blog post has been helpful to you, though. Practice this sound, as well as the other vowel sounds, and your pronunciation in English will eventually improve. Happy practicing!