By  the end  of studying this text,  you will be able to  distinguish between the long and the short monophthongs.

The short vowels

Seven, out of the 12 English monophthongs are said to be short. The seven short monophthongs   have   been   listed  below.  Four   words   that   make   use   of   these monophthongs  have  been  listed  corresponding  to  each  vowel.  Read  the words  below and observe the vowel sound in each word.

Name Vowel 2Symbol / i /  as inWords sit  pit  hit  did
Vowel 3/ e /as inbedmenpetset
Vowel 4/ æ /as infatcatratbat
Vowel 6/ ɔ /as inhotnotrotpot
Vowel 8/ u /as infootpullfullbook
Vowel 10/ ᴧ /as inlovecupbutsum
Vowel 12/ ə /as inagoaboutneveroccupy

Think  about other words in which these vowel sounds occur. For each vowel, list three other words.

The long vowels

There are 5 long English monophthongs. These have been listed below. Four words that make use of these monophthongs have been listed  corresponding to  each vowel. Read the words below and observe the vowel sound in each word.

Name Vowel 1Symbol / i: /  as inWords sea  eagle  theme  legal
Vowel 5/ a: /as incarlaughclerkpart
Vowel 7/ ɔ: /as inporttaughtcaughtcourt
Vowel 9/ u: /as infoodpoolfoolwool
Vowel 11/ ə: /as infurblurheardhurt

Think  about other words  in which these vowels occur.  For each vowel list three other words.

Observe that all the 5 long vowels are written in a special way. Is there anything special about the symbols representing the long vowels? Yes,  each of them has a length mark [:]. The length mark, written like a colon [:], is the symbol that indicates that the vowel is  long.  So,  the  long  vowels  could  be  identified  in  print  by  the  length  mark  that accompanies  them. Apart  from giving you the meanings of words,  the dictionary gives you the pronunciation of words as well.  Look  up the pronunciation of the words listed above in your dictionary.

Contrasting  short and long vowels 

One of the  things that the Oral English course tries to do is to provide you with ample opportunities  to     practise  with  words  (minimal  pairs)  in  which  these  short  and  long vowels  occur.  This  will  enable  you  to  distinguish  clearly  between  these  contrastive sound  units when speaking English and  also  when listening to  others speak. When you do  this  carefully,  your  speech  delivery  and  oral comprehension will eventually improve considerably.

So, practise the minimal pairs listed below involving Vowel 1 / i: / and Vowel 2 /. As a  matter  of  fact,  many  Ghanaian speakers  of  English  do  not  make  any  distinction between  these  two   vowel  sounds.   The  result  is  that  their  audience usually  have difficulty in understanding exactly what they mean.  Note that a change in the length of a vowel in a word results in meaning  change.

Monophthong  /i:/      Monophthong  /i/

seat                             sit 

least                             list 

reach                           rich 

feat                              fit

ease                             is 

seal                             sill 

sheep                         ship 

eat                               it 

deem                           dim 

seeks                           six 

feast                            fist 

these                            this 

each                            itch 

feel                              fill 

reason                         risen 

cheap                           chip 

seen                             sin 

leave                            live 

steal                            stilldeal                             dill

Will  you  go  over  the  words  once  more?  Carefully  observe  the  pronunciation  of the vowels in the words.Well done! Practise the minimal pairs below involving Vowel 11 /ə:/ and Vowel 3 / e /. Observe the difference  in vowel quality  and meaning  change as you read the words.

Monophthong  / ə:/                Monophthong  /e/

bird                                          bed 

burst                                        best

 burnt                                        bent

word                                        wed

 turn                                          ten 

heard                                       head 

worst                                       west 

turned                                      tend 

earned                                     end 

nursed                                      nest

hurled                                      held


  1.  Out of the 12 English  monophthongs,  7 are short and 5 are long.
  2. In  writing,  a  length  mark  /  :  /  is  placed  immediately  after  each  of the  long monophthongs.
  3. The long vowels can be identified  in print by the length mark that accompanies them.
  4. When  you  take  your  Oral English  lessons  seriously,  your  speech  delivery  and oral comprehension  will eventually  improve.



John Tetteh Agor, Ph.D.

Peer Reviewers

Modestus Fosu, Ph.D. 

Prosper Kwesi Agordjor, M.Phil. 

William  Foli Garr, (Rev.) M.Phil.