Short and Long Vowels Differences and Examples

short and long vowel differencesWhat is the difference between short and long vowels? Depending on their position in the word and the pronunciation of that word, the length of the vowel can change and have a different sound. Not all letters make the same sound in all words, and that’s what vowel length is about. What is a vowel, you ask? Check out this course on American English pronunciation to find out what they are, and how to pronounce them.

If you know American English, you know the American English vowels: A, E, I, O, and U. The letter Y is sometimes counted as a vowel too. Find out the basic sounds and functions of both vowels and consonants in this guide to American English pronunciation.

Short vs. Long Vowels

The easiest way to remember the difference between short and long vowels is by remembering the rule about long vowels, specifically. If a word with a certain vowel in it says the name of the vowel, then that vowel is making a “long” sound. By “name” we mean, the name of the actual letter. When we look at “a” we pronounce it /ā/, or “ayy.” This is the first letter of the alphabet, and when looking at the isolated letter, we’ll refer to it by its name: the way we say it when we begin to recite the alphabet. This is known as a long vowel sound, because it says the “name” of the letter. The same goes for the other vowels.

A short vowel sound is a vowel sound that does not follow this rule. When reading a word that uses a short vowel sound, will say the sound that the letter can make that is not its actual name. So in the case of “A,” the word “main” might have a long “A” sound because we pronounce the “A” as /ā/, whereas the word “man” has a short vowel sound.

Don’t know the American English alphabet? Learn how to read and write the alphabet in this course.

Short and Long Vowels Examples

Now we’ll go down the list of vowels and show you their pronunciation in the phonic code, and give examples of how to pronounce both. If the phonic code is too confusing, just remember:

/a/ is short and /ā/ is long. Same goes for the rest of the vowels:

  • /a/ and /ā/
  • /e/ and /ē/
  • /i/ and /ī/
  • /o/ and /ō/
  • /u/ and /ū/

Let’s get started with those examples.

A a

Short: /æ/ Long: /eɪ/

Short: “fat” Long: “fāte”

E e

Short: /ɛ/ Long: /iː/

Short: “wet” Long: “whēat”

I i

Short: /ɛ/ Long: /iː/

Short: “win” Long: “wīne”

O o

Short: /ɒ/ Long: /oʊ/

Short: “bot” Long: “bōat”

U u

Short: /ʌ/ Long: /juː/

Short: “cup” Long: “cūbe”

Short and Long Vowels Quiz – Questions

Below you’ll find a list of words. Determine if the bolded vowel inside each word is a short or long vowel sound. You’ll find the answers to this quiz at the bottom of this article. For more information on how to properly enunciate American English letters and vowels, here’s part two of the aforementioned course on American English pronunciation.

  1. aim
  2. fame
  3. all
  4. bat
  5. art
  6. date
  7. carve
  8. gate
  9. band
  10. inflate
  11. eat
  12. create
  13. belt
  14. desk
  15. beats
  16. elated
  17. evil
  18. sea
  19. dent
  20. ease
  21. sit
  22. into
  23. dine
  24. mint
  25. tinder
  26. spite
  27. ginger
  28. flight
  29. pig
  30. kite
  31. coat
  32. odd
  33. program
  34. soda
  35. pop
  36. float
  37. noir
  38. stop
  39. psycho
  40. crop
  41. until
  42. use
  43. stun
  44. ugly
  45. refuse
  46. ukulele
  47. strung
  48. utter
  49. blunder
  50. udemy!

Short and Long Vowels Quiz – Answers

  1. long
  2. long
  3. short
  4. short
  5. short
  6. long
  7. short
  8. long
  9. short
  10. long
  11. long
  12. long
  13. short
  14. short
  15. long
  16. long
  17. long
  18. long
  19. short
  20. long
  21. short
  22. short
  23. long
  24. short
  25. short
  26. long
  27. short
  28. long
  29. short
  30. long
  31. long
  32. short
  33. long
  34. long
  35. short
  36. long
  37. long
  38. short
  39. long
  40. short
  41. short
  42. long
  43. short
  44. short
  45. long
  46. long
  47. short
  48. short
  49. short
  50. long

There are only five vowels in the English language, and they are fairly easy to get a grip on. Learn more about consonant sounds in this course. Find more higher level English training in this intermediate English language course.