Same Spelling but Different Vowel Sound

Why are there two pronunciations of the same spelling? 

You may have noticed that many English words are spelled the same but pronounced differently. Words like these can cause trouble for English learners since using the wrong pronunciation can cause confusion and misunderstandings, or a lower score on a speaking test. Problem words like this are called heteronyms. The most common heteronyms are words that change their meaning depending on where the stress is placed or how the vowels are pronounced. By practicing these and other common heteronyms, you can learn to avoid common mistakes and avoid misunderstandings. That’s why in this article we’ll look at how to pronounce words with the same spelling but different vowel sound. 

For more heteronyms, you can find out how some are pronounced differently with changes in sense stress (word stress) in this article.  

Take a look at the following sentences and try to figure out how to read these properly.  Understanding how vowel sounds can be represented will help you. 

Practice set: same spelling but different vowel sound

Challenge: can you find the one sentence below in which the consonant sounds differ, not the vowel sounds?  

1) The bandage was wound around the wound.

2) We must polish the Polish furniture.

3) He could lead if he would get the lead out*.

4) A bass was painted on the base of the bass drum.

5) When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.

6) There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.

7) They were too close to the door to close it.

8) The buck does funny things when the does are present.


Ready for another set?  

Challenge: Can you find the one sentence below in which the consonant sounds differ, not the vowel sounds?  

9) A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.

10) To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.

11) The wind was too strong to wind the sail.

12) After a number of injections, my jaw got number.

13) Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.

14) How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?

15) Give me a minute to examine this minute insect. 

Need help?                                                                   

Curious about other words with the same spelling but different vowel sound? Would you like a little more coaching on your pronunciation with a professional ESL teacher?  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 experienced English teacher.  In fact, the first week is free for you to try it out! 

Anita Collins

Anita Collins

Anita is a long-time English teacher and language enthusiast from Canada, currently living in the multilingual city of Montreal. She majored in linguistics, dabbled in translation, and has been teaching students from all over the world for over a decade. She now spends each morning trying to balance her two loves: planning the next trip and spoiling her beagle. The rest of her day she spends on curriculum design and language classes, with the beagle underfoot.
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