Other Vowels in English

What are Vowel Sounds? 

English uses a combination of different letters to make 15 vowel sounds. Usually, these are divided into three categories: long vowels, short vowels and other vowels. We’ve looked at long and short vowels in this article. Now, let’s take a look at other vowel sounds in English.  Remember: because there are so many different vowel sounds in English, it is a good idea to consult a dictionary to find out how the vowels in a particular word are pronounced. 

What are “other vowel” sounds in English?

 These 5 vowel sounds aren’t long or short! As mentioned, they are ‘other vowel sounds’:


  • Other u : /ʊ/ ex. put
  • Oo sound:  /u/ ex. spoon
  • Aw sound: /ɔ/ ex. law
  • Oi sound: /ɔɪ/ ex. boy
  • Ow sound: /aʊ/ ex. down

Practice the other vowel sounds: 

Try to group the following words in the right ‘other vowel sound’ category. Once again, these are the categories:

Other u : /ʊ/             Oo sound:  /u/                    Aw sound: /ɔ/

Oi sound: /ɔɪ/          Ow sound: /aʊ/


Caught, choice, frown,  good, soon, dog, lawn, toys, zoo, should, school, crown, foot, voice.

What are R-controlled vowels?

In American English, there are 4 additional sounds that can be created if a vowel sound is followed by the letter R. Because of r’s influence on the adjacent vowel, it is sometimes referred to as the “bossy R”. In this respect, American English is very different from British English; the American r-controlled vowels sound quite different from British vowel/r combination.   

  • ‘schwa+r’ /ɚ/  ex. stir
  • ‘ar sound’ /ɑr/ ex. car
  • ‘or sound’ /ɔr/ ex. fork
  • ‘air sound’ /ɛr/ ex. stair

Practice with R-controlled words in context:  

Read the following sentences out loud:

  • After dinner we’re going to the fort.
  • There are many birds at the farm.
  • The cat will start to purr at the bird.
  • Her little girl fell from the bar at the park.
  • I will start making the tarts for the party.
  • Carl will hurl the ball on the turf.

Need help?

To learn more about English pronunciation and practice it in conversation, join SpeakUp, a dynamic program that engages you in authentic conversations on relevant topics and provides you with feedback from a professional and experienced English teacher.  In fact, the first week is free for you to try it out!  

Sabine Hobbel

Sabine Hobbel

Sabine Hobbel has been helping people improve their English since 2004; the knowledge she gained from completing her Master's degrees in Psychology and in English helps her every day. She has lived in 4 different English-speaking countries and she currently lives in the Italian Alps.
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