The English monophthongs

The  word  ‘monophthong’  consists  of  two  parts:  ‘mono’  and  ‘phthong’.  ‘Mono’ means one and  ‘phthong’ means sound.  So,  monophthong  simply means one  sound. The English  monophthongs  are also called  pure vowels.

The English monophthongs are 12 in number. To make it easy for you to recognize and learn to  use all these vowels appropriately,  they have been numbered Vowel 1, Vowel 2,  Vowel 3,  and  so  on.  These numbers have been assigned  them as their names. The first twelve vowels constitute  the monophthongs.

Identifying  the monophthongs

The twelve English monophthongs have been listed below. Corresponding to each monophthong is its name (i.e.  its number) and words that have the vowel in them. The letter or letters in the words representing the vowel sound  have been underlined. Read the vowels and the words below.

Name          SymbolWords 
Vowel 1/i:/         as inseaeaglethemelegal
Vowel 2/i/as insitpithitdid
Vowel 3/e/as inbedmenmerryset
Vowel 4
Vowel 5
as in
as in
Vowel 6/ɔ/as inhotnotrotpot
Vowel 7/ɔ:/as inporttaughtcaughtcourt
Vowel 8/ʊ/as infootpullfullbook
Vowel 9/u:/as infoodpoolfoolwool
Vowel 10/ᴧ/as inlovecupbutsum
Vowel 11/ə:/as infurblurheardhurt
Vowel 12/ə/as inagoaboutneveroccupy

Read  the vowels and the words once more. Think  about other words that make use of the vowels you have just read.

The vowel chart

The diagram that follows  is called the vowel chart. The vowels have been plotted on the vowel chart. Observe carefully  the positions  of the vowels in the chart below.

The vowels got their names from the positions they occupy in the vowel chart. Observe carefully  the positions  of the vowels in the vowel chart that follows.


  1. The   word   ‘monophthong’   consists   of  two   parts:  ‘mono’  and   ‘phthong’.‘Mono’  means  one   and  ‘phthong’  means  sound.  So,  monophthong  simply means one sound.
  2. The English  monophthongs  are also called  pure vowels.
  3. The English  monophthongs  are twelve in number.
  4. The  English  vowels  have  been  assigned  numbers.  The numbers given them are their names.
  5. The vowels got their names from the position they occupy in the vowel chart.



John Tetteh Agor, Ph.D.

Peer Reviewers

Modestus Fosu, Ph.D. 

Prosper Kwesi Agordjor, M.Phil. 

William  Foli Garr, (Rev.) M.Phil.