Short vowel sounds o

A Handy Guide to Short Vowel Sounds (+ 3 FREE Downloads)

by Marie Rippel

Short vowel sounds are the most common vowel sounds in the English language. Thankfully, these sounds are fairly easy to spell. Let’s dive in!

Because short vowel sounds are so prevalent in English, they are often the first vowel sounds that children learn. In All About Reading and All About Spelling, we always start with the short sounds when we teach the multiple sounds for vowels. For example, in All About Reading Level 1, Lesson 1, we teach that A says /ă/ as in apple.

It’s a great place to start. Once they learn the short sounds of the vowels and the consonant sounds, kids can decode hundreds of words! But just learning the simple spelling of the five short vowel sounds isn’t quite enough! You can help your child learn to read and spell even more words by teaching him four common ways to spell short vowel sounds.

Short Vowels Can Be Spelled in Four Ways

  1. The most common way: a single vowel in a closed syllable usually says a short sound.
    (In a closed syllable, a single vowel is followed by a consonant.)

    • In the word cat, A is followed by T and says /ă/.
    • In the word pet, E is followed by T and says /ĕ/.
    • In the word dish, I is followed by SH and says /ĭ/.
    • In the word mob, O is followed by B and says /ŏ/.
    • In the word tub, U is followed by B and says /ŭ/.
  2. Vowel teams can make short vowel sounds.
    (In a vowel team, two vowels work together to make one sound.)

    • EA can say /ĕ/ as in bread and sweat.
    • OU can say /ŭ/ as in touch and young.
  3. Single vowels can say the short sound of other vowels.

    • A after W can say /ŏ/ as in water and want.
    • Y in a closed syllable says /ĭ/ as in gym and myth.
    • O can say /ŭ/ as in love and oven.
  4. A vowel can make the short U or short I sound in an unaccented syllable.
    (A schwa is a muffled vowel sound heard in an unaccented syllable in many English words.)

    • A can say /ŭ/ as in about.
    • E can say /ĭ/ as in enemy.
    • I can say /ŭ/ as in family.
    • O can say /ŭ/ as in bottom.
    • U can say /ĭ/ as in minute.
    • Y can say /ŭ/ as in syringe.

    Please note: the sound a schwa makes in a particular word may vary by region.

Let’s Dive a Little Deeper

The chart below illustrates the most common ways to spell the short vowel sounds.

Click to Download our Printable Chart!

Although seeing the different spellings for short vowels on the chart above can be helpful for people who already know how to read and spell short vowel sounds, I recommend using the chart only for reference rather than as a learning tool. Teaching all these spellings at once would be overwhelming for a beginning student. Instead, teach them to students incrementally, one at a time.

Of course, as we all know, English has exceptions! In addition to the common spellings for the short vowel sounds, there are uncommon ways to spell them as well. Fortunately, these alternate spellings are few and far between.

  • Short A: plaid, laugh, calf
  • Short E: many, said, says, friend, leopard
  • Short I: pretty, busy, build, foreign sieve, women, mountain
  • Short O: all, thought, caught (all three words depend on regional dialect)
  • Short U: flood

Sample Lessons for Short Vowel Sounds

Are you interested in seeing how we teach the short vowel sounds in All About Reading and All About Spelling? Here is a sampling for you to download and enjoy!

Download All About Reading Level 1, Lesson 14

This lesson shows how we teach words with the short E sound represented by the letter E.

Download All About Reading Level 3, Lesson 41

This lesson shows how we teach words with the short E sound represented by phonogram EA.

The Bottom Line for Teaching Short Vowel Sounds

When it comes to teaching short vowel sounds, here’s what you need to keep in mind:

  • There are four common ways to spell short vowel sounds.
  • Teach these common spellings to students incrementally, one at a time.
  • Keep it fun! Use a wide variety of interesting activities to help your student learn the four ways to form short vowel sounds.

All About Reading and All About Spelling walk you and your student through all the steps needed to help your student learn to read and spell. The programs are multisensory, motivating, and include everything you need. And if you ever need a hand, we’re here to help!

Looking for information on long vowels? Check out our Handy Guide to Long Vowel Sounds!

Teach Phonics: Short o Sound — for Parents

Red Cat Reading Team Phonics

The phonics short o sound is the vowel sound in “hop,” “top,” “mop,” “tot,” “pot,” and “lot. ” Other o sounds are the long o, as in “mode” or “toad,” and the double o, as in “mood.” All these different sounds that one letter can make can be confusing for a new reader! The short o sound is the easiest to understand (and teach!) so start there.

It’s usually easiest for kids to get some practice hearing the short o sound at the beginning of words.

Short o words list:

  • octopus
  • olive
  • ox
  • otter
  • ostrich
  • on
  • odd
  • of
  • onto
  • orange

Try reading up on some of these animals, watching videos about them, or tasting olives and oranges. Listen to the words together and point out to your child the letter that makes the short o sound.


o CVC Words

Once you’ve practiced together a bit with the words that begin with short o, move on to some simple words with short o sounds in the middle. “Consonant-vowel-consonant” or “CVC” words are great for this. There are lots of short o CVC words, too! Have fun with phonics time! Make learning short o words a fun experience for you and your child.

Short o CVC words list:

  • hop
  • mop
  • pot
  • lot
  • not
  • rot
  • cop
  • top
  • bot
  • job


o Sound Phonics Lesson

Watch our Short o Sound video with your young ones, and check out the rest of the lesson here!


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o Phonics Activities

Play Octopus Tag

This is a fun and active game to play with a group of kids. Try it with your crew! Choose a large defined area like a yard for the kids to run across. First, have one child be the octopus. All the other kids line up on one side; these are the “fish.” Together, all the “fish” shout, “Octopus, octopus, ah, ah, ah!” using the short o sound. All the “fish” run across the yard, trying to get to the other side without being tagged. The “octopus” tags as many people as he or she can. Anyone who is tagged becomes a “crab.” The “crabs” help the octopus to tag people, but must keep one foot planted at all times. The “fish” go back and forth until everyone has been tagged. The last person not tagged gets to be the octopus next round. This is a great activity for active kids who learn best while moving!

Short o Word Drawing

If your child likes to draw, this is the activity for them! Give them free creative reign to draw (or color) some short o words. Take a blank sheet and write the word in large letters at the bottom of the page. Give your child crayons or markers and let them go to town! Here are some good words to draw:

  • dog
  • pot
  • mop
  • log
  • hop
  • frog

Read the Dr. Seuss Classic Hop on Pop

This book is a classic for a reason! It is a great book for teaching the short o sound (as well as the concept of rhyming). You could also read the book Fox in Socks together, another classic that highlights short o sounds. The silly rhymes and pictures in Dr. Seuss books are so engaging to kids that they don’t even realize they are learning. After reading the story for a few days in a row (maybe each night before bed?), you could try leaving “blanks” for your child to fill in. For instance, you could say “hop on….” and wait for your child to complete, “pop!”

Any books targeting the short o sound are great! Rhyming songs are another fun way to learn. Try both and see what works best for your child.

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Long and short vowels in English

Longitude is one of the characteristics of a vowel sound, which shows the relative duration of its sound compared to other sounds.

Longitude can be positional and phonemic. In the first case, the duration of the vowel depends on the position in the word and stress, while this characteristic does not affect the meaning. The phonemic length of a vowel has a semantic function, that is, depending on the length of the sound, the meaning of the word changes. nine0003

Length of vowel sounds in English

In Russian, the length of vowel sounds does not affect the meaning of words and changes only depending on stress. In English, vowels differ not only in positional but also in phonemic length. This means that long and short sounds, similar in other characteristics, represent different phonemes. Words that differ only in these phonemes have different meanings: ship - sheep , fit - feet , pull - pool . Therefore, it is so important to pronounce long and short sounds correctly.

In transcription, long vowels are indicated with a colon: [i:], [α:], [ɔ:], [u:], [ә:]. In some cases, long vowels in an unstressed position are reduced and become semi-long, which in transcription is indicated by one dot from above: [α ].

The long vowels listed above are opposed to short vowels, forming the following pairs in English:

  • [i:] - [ı]
  • [uː] - [u]
  • [ɔ:] - [ɒ]
  • [α:] - [ʌ]
  • [ә:] - [ə]

The pronunciation of long and short English vowels often causes difficulties for Russian learners of English, since in Russian vowels do not have phonemic longitude, and we are not used to distinguishing the length of a vowel sound by ear. We often do not hear the difference between long and short vowels when listening to English speech. It is still not clear how long you need to draw a sound when speaking, so very unnatural, or almost inaudible, or too long vowels are obtained. It is impossible to correctly pronounce short and long sounds so that a native speaker hears the difference, even if you diligently shorten short vowels and stretch out long ones. nine0003

Sometimes it seems that native speakers themselves do not know the difference between short and long sounds, they seem to pronounce them the same way - but they themselves understand each other. But it's not. Let's see what are the differences between long and short English vowels, how to learn to hear them and how to train their pronunciation.

Differences between long and short English sounds

It is logical to assume that if vowels are called long or short, they differ in sound length. This is the main difference between them, but not the only one. It is important to understand that long and short sounds have other differences, which consist in articulatory features. This means that the sounds are not just of different lengths, they are also different in sound. And most often it is these articulatory features that determine the length of the vowel sound: the duration of the sound depends on the position of the tongue and the tension of the vocal apparatus. nine0003

Long and short English vowels differ in such a characteristic as tension. Long vowels are tense, in English they are also called tense . When they are pronounced, the root of the tongue seems to be tense, under tension. The sound is pronounced, bright, rich, clear.

Short vowels are called lax – relaxed. The tongue in the region of the root is relaxed, the vowel sound is articulated quickly, easily, without additional effort, as if bursting. It turns out short, inconspicuous, faded and fuzzy. nine0003

Qualitative differences in sounds in different pairs of English vowels range from pronounced to almost imperceptible. It is easy to notice the difference between long and short sounds a: pay attention to how the words cart and cut are pronounced, they differ not only in duration, but also in sound. But the differences between long and short u are almost imperceptible: pool and pull sound very similar, only slightly different in length. The Scots generally pronounce them the same way, differing only in context. nine0003

In addition, the duration of the pronunciation of vowels is also affected by positional longitude - for example, stressed or unstressed position in a word. As a result, a short vowel sound in one word may sound longer than a long sound in another word.

Thus, it is not enough to rely only on the subjective duration of a vowel sound. All the features of short and long vowels described above must be taken into account when learning English. It remains to understand how to master the pronunciation of long and short sounds in practice. nine0003

How to learn to pronounce long and short English vowels

The main mistake foreigners make when pronouncing long and short English sounds is focusing only on duration. But with this approach, it is intuitively incomprehensible where the boundary between a long and a short sound passes: you can’t measure the length of a sound with a stopwatch. When trying to artificially lengthen or shorten a vowel, the sounds are unnaturally short or drawn out. nine0003

To learn how to pronounce long and short English sounds, you need to forget about the usual terminology "long" and "short". Try not to think about the duration of the sound at all. To correctly pronounce long and short vowels, you need to focus on their articulation, and not on duration. If we correctly reproduce the pronunciation of the vowel, then the duration will turn out to be correct automatically. Remember that long vowels require more tension at the root of the tongue, while short ones are pronounced without additional effort, easily and without tension. nine0003

Pay attention to how native speakers pronounce vowels - don't watch how long they draw them out, but watch the pronunciation, the articulation, the quality of the sound. Repeat, imitate, practice. For practice, it is best to use video lessons or a conversation with a native speaker, since audio materials do not make it possible to see articulation.

It is best to train long and short sounds not separately, but as part of words. First, this way you will note the influence of positional longitude on the duration of the sound in specific examples. Secondly, just as words are best learned in context, sounds are also best learned in the environment. nine0003

Practice pronunciation of long and short vowels in pairs of words to notice the difference between sounds, for example:

  • Sport – hot
  • Arm-cut
  • See-hit
  • Food-put
  • Fur – ago

When you learn how to pronounce long and short vowels correctly in English, it will become easy to distinguish between them in speech. When listening to speech, forget about the differences in duration, pay attention to the qualitative differences in sounds - how intensely the vowel is pronounced, how bright or faded it sounds, how pairs of sounds differ from each other, except for duration. nine0003

English vowels: pronunciation ɜː, ɒ, ɔː - tongue twisters, videos, practicing sounds

Hello reader! 🙂 Today we have again prepared for you a whole training for setting the pronunciation of English sounds. In this series of articles (this is already the 3rd one in a row), we will analyze the subtleties of the English phonetic system and find the differences between the sounds of the English language and our Russians.

Today we will analyze the analogues of the /o/ sound in English. Or rather, they are just not analogues, but our phonemic hearing plays a cruel joke with us, and we:

  1. change all three English sounds to Russian /o/,
  2. we do not see the difference between these 3 sounds and thus change the meanings of some words.

We will build the practice of the sounds of the English language, as before: with the help of training videos, a special set of words, exercises, tongue twisters and a song with a reference pronunciation. Let's go!

Warning: the article uses the British pronunciation. What exactly are the differences among the Americans, I will indicate below. nine0003

Pronunciation of the sound /ɜː/ - long vowels in English

Pronounced in the words girl, nurse, learn, etc. e (m e e) and e (m e l) , respectively), while it is neither one nor the other.

I would say that you need to take the position of the lips, as for / e /, hold your mouth in this position, but try to pronounce / o /. Reminds in the word G those . The sound is long.

How the speech apparatus works: The back of the tongue lies flat, the middle part of the tongue is slightly raised, higher than the front and back of the tongue. The tip of the tongue is at the bottom teeth. The edges of the tongue do not touch the upper teeth. The distance between the upper and lower teeth is quite narrow. The lips are tense and stretched, slightly revealing the teeth.

Pronunciation errors of English words in Russian

What are the main mistakes of Russian speakers:

give the sound / ɜː / a touch of the Russian sound / o /. Lip position as for / e /, but pronounce / o /.

2. Complete replacement for the Russian sound /o/, denoted by the letter ё in writing, in words like, worse, sir , etc. nine0003

Tip: give the English sound a hint of Russian /e/. The lips should be stretched, the teeth brought together, the tongue should be flat.

And, accordingly, do not round your lips, as for Russian / o /. It is recommended to pronounce / ɜː / with almost the same stretched position of the lips as for the phoneme / i: / => see / si: / - sir / sɜː /, fee / fi: / - fir / fɜ: /, heat / hi: t / - hurt / hɜːt /.

The stretched position of the lips is especially obligatory when pronouncing /ɜː/ after /w/ => we /wi:/ – world /wɜːd/, we /wi:/ – work /wɜːk/, we /wi:/ – worm /wɜːm/ . nine0003

Useful article on the topic: The best podcasts in English, or Listen!

3. Also note that the consonant before this vowel does not need to be softened (we wrote about this in detail in the last article). In words like girl, first, bird , etc., the consonants will be hard.

Advice: do not lift the middle back of the tongue towards the hard palate while pronouncing the consonant. First pronounce the hard consonant, and then start pronouncing the vowel. nine0003

Examples for English vowels

Got it? Now we turn to the formulation of the correct pronunciation of words in English. We set up a speech apparatus in the right position and start training:

Worse / WɜːS /

Girl / ɡɜːl /

Firm / Fɜːm /

FIRST / ˈFɜːST /

HURL / HɜːL /

LURK / LɜːK /

Curl / kɜːl/

bird /bɜːd/

world /wɜːld/

word /wɜːd/

sir /sɜː R /

Were / Wɜː R /

Heard / HɜːD /

LEARN / LɜːN /


Third / θɜːD /

NURSE / NɜːS /

Stir / STɜː 9 /

turn /tɜːn/

earth /ɜːθ/

verb /vɜːb/

pearl /pɜːl/

hurt /hɜːt/

fir /ˈfɜː r /

worm /wɜːm/

purse /pɜːs/

curse /kɜːs/

earl /ɜːl/

her /hɜː r /

burn /bɜːn/

Excellent! And now I’ll tell you about the difference in pronunciation performed by an American (I didn’t say it before, so as not to confuse). The American transcription looks like this:

firm - /f ɝ ːm/ (or /fɜrm/ as we have on Lingualeo).

This transcription of the English alphabet / ɝ / denotes a similar sound, but with retroflection, that is, an overtone / r / (follow the link and listen to two pronunciations of the word firm). For more information about the American version, see the video at the link. nine0003

In British pronunciation, the /r/ sound can only be heard at the junction of words when the next word begins with a vowel: si r A lec /sɜː r æ lɪk/.

to fix the result will help us with English tongue twisters for vowel sounds:

  • G E Rman L EA RNERS L RN G Rman W O RDS, T 9000 U

    Rkish L EA rners l ea rn T u rkish w o rds. nine0030

  • AN EA RL Gave P EA RL A F U R and A C IR CLET OF P EA RLS FIR Th IR TY - F ST B 9000 IR .
  • The F IR ST SK IR T IS D IR Tier THET IR D SH IR T, The F IR SH T IS D IR Tier Thier THET th ir d sk ir t.

Finally, let's find this English sound in a well-known song so that it is imprinted in the auditory memory. Since we took the British pronunciation as a basis, the example will be exclusively British - The Beatles "Girl"

The sound /ɒ/ is the pronunciation of short vowels in English

“Inverted a in English transcription” is pronounced in the words doll, hot, what . The English sound is similar to Russian / o / under stress (as in the word p o st ) but:

  • our lips are more rounded (and protrude forward),
  • for our sound, the tongue rises higher, because the Russian sound is less open,
  • nine0029 our sound is longer.

How the speech apparatus works: the articulation is a lot like the /a:/ sound, as in the word part (remember when we learned to show the throat to the doctor and move the tongue back and down?). But the root of the tongue is drawn back and down even more than with / a: /, not tense. The tip of the tongue is drawn further from the lower teeth than with / a: /, and lowered down. The distance between the jaws is large. The lips are slightly rounded, the protrusion of the lips is completely absent. The sound is short. nine0003

Tip: since the English sounds /a:/ and /ɒ/ are somewhat similar, you can try this: start saying the word part /pa:t/ (listen to the British pronunciation here), but move it as far back as possible the root of the tongue, DO NOT round your lips too much and make the sound short - you get the correct pronunciation of the word pot /pɒt/ (listen to the British version here).

In order not to accidentally change the sound to Russian /o/, open your mouth wider, lower and move your tongue lower. Rounding the lips, do not protrude them forward and reduce the sound. nine0003

Let's move on to practice. Let's put the correct pronunciation of the English language using a set of words:

lodge /lɒdʒ/

doll /dɒl/

what /wɒt/

pot /pɒt/

not /nɒt/ 9000 cough3

/ rock /rɒk /r Kɒf/

WAS/ Wɒz/

Stop/ STɒP/


GOT/ ɡɒT/


BOX/ Bɒks/

Shot/ ʃɒt/


job /dʒɒb/

Want / Wɒnt /

BOX / BɒKS /

Stop / STɒP /

DOG / Dɒɡ /

Bob / Bɒb /

Lost / LɒST /

Swat /

OFF / ɒF /

Golf / ɡɒLF/

Lot/ Lɒt/

ODD/ ɒD/

Wash/ Wɒʃ/

FOG/ Fɒɡ/


Watch/ Wɒtʃ/

I again pay attention to the differences in American pronunciation. There is practically no “short o” in AmE, and they pronounce the above words with the sound / a: / (we talked about it above) - not / nɑːt /. nine0003

Fasten the pronunciation with tongue twisters in English for training sounds:

  • r O b O Ften DR PS HIS W A Llet in SH 9000 O PS, T O M o ften dr o ps his w a llet at st o ps.
  • D o lly w a nts to w a tch n o vels o n TV, P0007 a tch h o rrors o n TV.
  • Kn o tt and Sh o tt f o ught a duel. Kn o tt w a s sh o t and Sh o tt w a s n o t. It w a s better to be Sh o tt than Kn o tt.

At the end of , a line from the song . By the way, it was not so easy to find an example… This sound is short, and I wanted it to be heard in the song. But singers have the right to stretch even short sounds 🙂 Therefore, we take as an example a rather fast and rhythmic song "13 Little Dolls" by the British singer Sophie Ellis-Bextor. nine0003

Fight them hard then keep them safe
Those 13 little d o lls
One for each mood o f the day
Those 13 little d o lls
Cr o ss your heart and try to sleep
Leave them out to play
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 910, 11, 12, 13 Little D O LLS

Sound / ɔː / - pronunciation of vowels in English

Sound / ɔː / pronounced in words Horse, Wall, Law et al.

The sound is similar in articulation to the previous /ɒ/ - the tongue moves back and down, BUT the back of the tongue is raised to half the distance (and in the previous sound the root of the tongue is relaxed), so in this sound you feel like " closes" opening at the throat. The lips are drawn into a small hole, as if you are planning to kiss someone. The sound is long. nine0003

That is, in fact, we pronounce a very, very deep sound /o/, but the position of the lips, as for the sound /y/.

Understanding the difference between these sounds is also important because changing the sound can change the meaning of the word: pɒt/ (pot) - port /pɔːt/ (port)

wad /wɒd/ (pack of something - banknotes, chewing gum) - ward /wɔːd/ (hospital ward)

Correct pronunciation of words in English

I hope you managed to catch the articulation of this sound. We move on to training in the words:

or /ɔː R /

All /ɔːl /

North /nɔː /

Lɔː /

Ball /Bɔːl /

Small /

STARE /STɔː r /

horse /hɔːs/

saw /sɔː/

bought /bɔːt/

draw /drɔː/

walk /wɔːk/

CLAW / KLɔː /

Talk / Tɔːk /

Four / Fɔː R /

Door / Dɔː R /


Lord / Lɔːd /

Fɔːt / Fɔːt / 9000 foult / fɔː000 SHORE / ʃɔː R /

Call / Kɔːl /

Course / Kɔːs /

Floor / FLɔː R /

Warm / Wɔːm /

Chalk / Tʃɔːk /

Fɔːθ / Fɔːθ / Fɔːθ / Fɔːθ / Fɔːθ/9000 9 ɔːl/

wall /wɔːl/

more /mɔː r /

thought /θɔːt/

nor /nɔː r /

court /kɔːt/

brought /brɔːt/

warn /wɔːn/

In words like ball, small, low , Americans again pronounce /a:/, and in words like horse /hɔːrs/ and north /nɔːrθ/ - /r/ is pronounced. Learn more about American pronunciation in the video.

Now let's move on to tongue twisters:

  • F OU R EXPL O RERS Expl O Re F O RTY W A TERF A LLS, F O RTY EXPL O RERS O RE OU OU r w a terf a lls.

As a musical example, I propose to take the British band Pink Floyd and the song "Another Brick In The Wall" (or rather, one word from it - wall ).

We don't say goodbye!

There are 44 (!!!) sounds in English.

Learn more


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