The “OH” Diphthong, as in “No”

The “OH” Diphthong (No, Low, Go)

Diphthongs are sounds that contain two sounds within one syllable. This means that if you clap for each syllable while you say these words, the diphthong would be part of just one clap. In this article, let’s take a look at the “OH” diphthong in English. It’s pronounced as /oʊ/ in American English and /əʊ/ in British English. 

How to pronounce the “oh” diphthong

To make the /oʊ/ diphthong sound, you will need to know how to make the separate sounds of /o/ as in the Spanish and Italian word “bosco” (forest), and /ʊ/, as in “wolf” and “bull”, shortly after each other. In a diphthong, the sound slides from the one sound, in this case the /o/ to the /ʊ/.  When producing this sound, you may notice that your lips start to form a tight circle as you move from the /o/ sound to the /ʊ/ sound. 

Examples of the “oh” diphthong

We commonly use this sound in American English, as an /aʊ/ sound.  However, for a British English pronunciation, we pronounce this as a /əʊ/ diphthong, a schwa followed by a /ʊ/.

The /oʊ/ sound can be created in multiple ways, including by writing o, o plus “magic e”, ol, oa, oe, ow, ou, au.  

                                 American Eng.             British Eng. 

  • Both                       /boʊθ/                            /bəʊθ/ 
  • Alone                     /əˈloʊn/                         /əˈləʊn/ 
  • Control                 /kənˈtroʊl/                    /kənˈtrəʊl/ 
  • Approach            /əˈproʊtʃ/                       /əˈprəʊtʃ/ 
  • Goes                      /goʊs/                             /gəʊs/ 
  • Know                    /noʊ/                               /nəʊ/ 
  • Soul                      /soʊl/                               /səʊl/ 
  • Taupe                  /toʊp/                              /təʊp/

Need help?

For more on diphthongs, check out these articles:

Do you need a little more help with your pronunciation? To learn more about English pronunciation, get needed feedback and practice 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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