Pronunciation of Long and Short Vowel Sounds and Minimal Pairs

Pronunciation of Long and Short Vowel Sounds and Minimal Pairs

by LaurieGardner 14,141 views

All vowels have at least two main sounds that they make depending on surrounding letters and sounds. These are usually referred to as the long and short sound of a vowel. This article shows some common spellings for long and short vowels as well as some minimal pairs where words change from long to short vowels.


The long a sound:

a → race, able, make

ai → wait, aim

ay → slay, day, may

ei → eight, weight

ey → they, hey

ea → break, great


The short a sound:

a → cat, mad, dance


The long e sound:

e → be, eve

ee → see, sleep

ea → meal, peace, read

ie/ei → field, believe


The short e sound:

e → let, tell, send

ea → bread, weather, dead


The long i sound:

i → pilot, file, idea

igh → fight, sigh, light

ie → lie, cried, tie

y → by, why, apply


The short i sound:

i → pin, tip, finish

e → pretty

y → myth, symbol, system


The long o sound:

o → remote, hope, wrote

oa → boat, soap, oak

ow → snow, tomorrow, window

oe → toe, soe

ough → though, bough, thorough


The short o sound:

o → pot, forgot, clock


The long u sound:

u → use, unit, future

ue → argue, hue, rescue

ew → new, stew, few

oe → shoe, canoe


The short u sound:

o → opinion, come, color

u → conduct, cut

ou → couple, tough


An interesting thing about long and short vowels is that the pronunciation can be changed with the addition or subtraction of one letter. When this happens, words are called minimal pairs. Here are some examples of minimal pairs for long and short vowel sounds:

at → ate

bat → bate

cap → cape

hat → hate

tap → tape

rat → rate

beet → bet

neat → net

seat → set

wheat → wet

time → tim

bite → bit

light → lit

site → sit

might → mit

wine → win

cope → cop

hope → hop 

cone → con   

note → not   

coat → cot   

cube → cub   

tube → tub   

cute → cut 

dude → dud


Here are some other resources on

Minimal Pairs Bingo


Missing Vowels: Minimal Pairs with "I" and "Ee" Sounds


Pronunciation: Minimal Pairs Reading Practice


Beginning Phonics and Writing: A and U Minimal Pairs Minimal Pairs: Vowels

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