Basic Phonics Exercises
Learn to pronounce any word correctly by using your Learner’s Dictionary
A serious difficulty for Chinese students of English is that while the Chinese writing system is ideographic (the meaning is in the shape), the English writing system is phonetic (the meaning is in the sound). If the shape of a Chinese character is changed even slightly, the meaning and pronunciation changes, while a slight change to the spelling of an English word will change the meaning, but the unchanged parts generally keep the same pronunciation. For example, if FIND is changed to KIND the unchanged part (IND) keeps its sound (eye-n-d). This is the basis of English rhyme. Using an unchanged “ind” ending, we can get bind, find, hind, kind, mind, blind, grind, behind. Students must try to forget the habit of looking for the meaning of a word in the shape (Chinese writing) and find the sound of the word in the shape and the meaning of the word in the sound.
Students often have poor pronunciation because you most often must “discover” the pronunciation of a word for yourself from the phonic symbols printed in your textbooks, or by listening to a squeaky electronic translator, without the benefit of a native speaker to guide you, and you most often practice reading aloud by yourself, without an audience to give feed-back. “Long” and “short” vowel sounds seem to cause the greatest difficulties, as do blends. Following is a basic phonics program. The aim is to help students to “sound out” the pronunciation of a new word by identifying the common word elements or clusters of letters that usually keep the same sound no matter what word they are part of, or what part of the word.
Make good use of your Learner’s Dictionary. Note how many letters are often commonly used together (e.g. ment, con, pro) and generally have the same pronunciation. Use your dictionary to familiarize yourself with these common clusters or word elements, keeping in mind that word elements most often keep the same sound, whether found at the beginning, middle, or end of a word: ate ~ later ~ debate.
Part One: The Rules
LESSON ONE: Basic Phonics Rules
The rules of English pronunciation apply to the SYLLABLES in the words. The position of vowels and consonants within the SYLLABLES determines the pronunciation. Students of English must learn to read and speak words in a smooth and rhythmic way by syllables, not by whole words.
The vowels are “a, e, i, o, and u“; also sometimes “y” & “w“. This also includes the diphthongs “oi, oy, ou, ow, au, aw, oo“. Vowels are those sounds which do not limit or restrict the flow of air from the throat during speech.
The consonants are all the other letters which stop or limit the flow of air from the throat in speech. They are: “b, c, ch, d, f, g, gh, h, j, k, l, m, n, ng, p, ph, qu, r, s, sh, t, th, v, w, wh, x, y, z “.
1. Sometimes the rules don’t work.
There are many exceptions in English because of the vastness of the language and the many languages from which it has borrowed. The rules do work however, in most of the words.
2. Every syllable in every word must have a vowel.
English is a “vocal” language. Every word and syllable must have a vowel.
3. “C” followed by “e, i or y” usually has the soft sound of “s”.
Examples: “cyst”, “central”, and “city”.
4. “G” followed by “e, i or y” usually has the soft sound of “j”.
Example: “gem”, “gym”, and “gist”.
5. When 2 consonants are joined together and form one new sound, they are a consonant digraph.
They count as one sound and one letter and are never separated. Examples: “ch, sh, th, ph and wh”.
6. When a syllable ends in a consonant and has only one vowel, that vowel is short.
Examples: “fat, bed, fish, spot, luck, hatrack”.
7. When a syllable ends in a silent “e”, the silent “e” is a signal that the vowel in front of it is long.
Examples: “make, gene, kite, rope, and use”.
Note: Compare: bat ~ bate; cap ~ cape; fat ~ fate; hat ~ hate; & etc
8. When a syllable has 2 vowels together, the first vowel is usually long and the second is silent.
Examples: “pain, eat, boat, rescue, say, grow“.
NOTE: Diphthongs don’t follow this rule. In a diphthong, the vowels blend together to create a single new sound. The diphthongs are: “oi, oy, ou, ow, au, aw, oo“.
9. When a syllable ends in any vowel and it is the only vowel in the syllable, that vowel is usually long. Examples: “pa/per, me, I, o/pen, u/nit, and my“.
10. When a vowel is followed by an “r” in the same syllable, that vowel is “r-controlled”.
It is not long nor short. “R-controlled “er, ir, and ur” often sound the same (like “er“). Examples: “term, sir, fir, fur, su/gar, or/der“.
LESSON TWO: Basic Syllable Rules
1. To find the number of syllables:
—count the vowels in the word,
—subtract any silent vowels, (like the silent “e” at the end of a word or the second vowel when two vowels are together in a syllable)
—subtract one vowel from every diphthong, (diphthongs only count as one vowel sound.)
—the number of vowels sounds left is the same as the number of syllables.
The number of syllables that you hear when you pronounce a word is the same as the number of vowels sounds heard. For example:
The word “came” has 2 vowels, but the “e” is silent, leaving one vowel sound and one syllable.
The word “outside” has 4 vowels, but the “e” is silent and the “ou” is a diphthong which counts as only one sound, so this word has only two vowels sounds and therefore, two syllables.
2. Divide between two middle consonants.
Split up words that have two middle consonants. For example:
hap/pen, bas/ket, let/ter, sup/per, din/ner, and Den/nis. The only exceptions are the consonant digraphs. Never split up consonant digraphs as they really represent only one sound. These exceptions are “sh”, “ph”, “th”, “ch”, and “wh”.
3. Usually divide before a single middle consonant.
When there is only one syllable, you usually divide in front of it, as in: “o/pen”, “i/tem”, “e/vil”, and “re/port”. The only exceptions are those times when the first syllable has an obvious short sound, as in “cab/in”.
4. Divide before the consonant before an “-le” syllable.
When you have a word that has the old-style spelling in which the “-le” sounds like “-el“, divide before the consonant before the “-le“. For example: “a/ble”, “fum/ble”, “rub/ble” “mum/ble” and “this/tle”. The only exception to this are “ckle” words like “tick/le”.
5. Divide off any compound words, prefixes, suffixes and roots which have vowel sounds.
Split off the parts of compound words like “sports/car” and “house/boat”. Divide off prefixes such at “un/happy”, “pre/paid”, or “re/write”. Also divide off suffixes as in the words “farm/er“, “teach/er“, “hope/less” and “care/ful“. In the word “stop/ping”, the suffix is actually “-ping” because this word follows the rule that when you add “-ing” to a word with one syllable, you double the last consonant and add the “-ing”.
LESSON THREE: Basic Accent Rules
When a word has more than one syllable, one of the syllables is always a little louder than the others. The syllable with the louder stress is the accented syllable. It may seem that the placement of accents in words is often random or accidental, but these are some rules that usually work.
1. Accents are often on the first syllable. Examples: ba‘/sic, pro‘/gram.
2. In words that have suffixes or prefixes, the accent is usually on the main root word. Examples: box‘/es, un/tie‘.
3. If de-, re-, ex-, in-, po-, pro-, or a- is the first syllable in a word, it is usually not accented. Examples: de/lay‘, ex/plore‘.
4. Two vowel letters together in the last syllable of a word often indicates an accented last syllable. Examples: com/plain’, con/ceal’.
5. When there are two like consonant letters within a word, the syllable before the double consonants is usually accented. Examples: be/gin‘/ner, let‘/ter.
6. The accent is usually on the syllable before the suffixes -ion, ity, -ic, -ical, -ian, -ial, or -ious, and on the second syllable before the suffix -ate. Examples: af/fec/ta‘/tion, dif/fer/en‘/ti/ate.
7. In words of three or more syllables, one of the first two syllables is usually accented. Examples: ac’/ci/dent, de/ter‘/mine.
8. A speaker may change the accented or stressed syllable for emphasis in speaking or making a point. Example: ab’/sol/ute/ly may be pronounced ab/sol/ute’/ly to draw attention to or emphasize the word.
Part Two: The Sounds
LESSON FOUR: Sounds: Vocals, Sub-vocals, Aspirates
Vocals: (letters that are pronounced clearly and a bit loudly)
(Note that it is slight differences in the pronunciation of vowels that is the main cause of differences in spoken regional accents.)
1: A ~ Ale 2: A ~ Arm 3: A ~ All 4: A ~ At
5: E ~ Eat 6: E ~ Bet
7: I ~ Ice 8: I ~ It
9: O ~ Ode 10: O ~ Do 11: O ~ Ox
12: U ~ Sue 13: U ~ Up 14: U ~ Full
15: Ou ~ Out 16: Ow ~ Owl
Sub-Vocals: (letters that are pronounced softly and quietly, especially when at the end of a word)
(Note: many students have the bad habit of putting “eh” at the end of words, such as “eggeh” instead of “egg” and pronouncing the final consonant strongly. In most cases, final consonants are pronounced very softly.)
17: B ~ Ebb 18: D ~ Odd 19: G ~ Egg 20: J,G ~ Jet 21: L ~ Ill 22: H ~ Him
23: N ~ Run 24: R ~ Bur 25: V ~ Eve 26: W ~ Woe 27: Y ~ Yet
28: Z,S ~ Buzz 29: Z ~ Azure 30: Th ~ They 31: Ng ~ Sing
Aspirates: (letters that are pronounced strongly)
(Note: avoid putting “ee” after a “ch” ending. Many students will say muchee, lunchee, watchee.)
32: P ~ Up 33: T ~ It 34: K,C ~ Ark 35: Ch ~ Much 36: H ~ He 37: F ~If
38: Qu ~ Queen 39: Wh ~ When 40: S,C ~ Sin 41: Sh ~ Fish 42: Th ~ Thin
LESSON FIVE: Vocal Elements
Note – each vocal element is combined in words with the sub-vocals and aspirates which are known to combine in English.
1. The sound of “a” long as in: bate, date, fate, gate, hate, Jane, kale, mate, nape, pate, rate, sate, tame, vane, wave, gaze, chain, lathe, shape, whale.
2. “a” flat, or Italian as in: bar, dark, garb, hark, jar, car, lark, mar, par, salve, tar, waft, yarn, czar, char, father, sharp.
3. “a” broad as in: ball, dawn, fall, gall, haw, jaw, law, mall, gnaw, pall, raw, saw, tall, vault, wall, yawl, gauze, chalk, thaw, shawl, wharf.
4. “a” short as in: bat, dash, fat, gat, hat, jam, cat, lad, mat, nap, pat, rat, sat, tan, van, wax, yam, chap, sang, thank, that, shall, whack.
5. “e” long as in: be, deep, feet, geese, he, jeer, key, lee, need, peat, reel, see, team, veer, we, zeal, cheer, theme, thee, she, wheel.
6. “e” short as in: bet, den, fen, get, hen, jet, ken, let, met, net, pet, rest, set, ten, vex, wet, yet, check, theft, then, shed, when.
7. “i” long as in: bite, dine, fine, guide, hive, gibe, kite, line, mine, nine, pine, ripe, site, vine, size, chime, thigh, shine, white.
8. “i” short as in: bit, din, fin, gimp, hit, jib, kit, lid, mix, nit, pin, sit, tin, wit, zinc, chin, sing, thin, with, shin, whit.
9. “o” long as in: bolt, dome, foe, go, hole, joke, coke, lone, mote, note, pole, rope, sole, tone, vote, wove, joke, zone, choke, those, shoal.
10. “o” middle as in: boot, do, food, groom, hoot, coop, lose, move, noose, pool, roost, soup, too, woo, ooze, tooth, shoe.
11. “o” short as in: bot, dot, fox, got, hot, jot, cot, lot, mop, not, pop, rot, sot, top, novel, chop, song, thong, shot, whop.
12. “u” long as in: bugle, due, fume, hue, june, cue, lute, mute, nude, rule, sue, tune, yule, truth, sure.
13. “u” short as in: but, dust, fun, gun, hut, just, cull, lull, must, nut, pun, sup, tun, vulgar, buzz, shrub, sung, thumb, thus, shut.
14. “u” middle as in: bush, pudding, full, sugar, could, bull, pull, put, would, butcher, should.
15. “ow and ou” as in: down, fowl, gout, how, jounce, cow, loud, mount, noun, pout, rout, south, town, vouch, wound, mouth, thou, shout.
LESSON SIX: Sub-vocals & Aspirates
Note.- This covers a variety of the combinations of the sub-vocals and aspirates; the letters before the colon and dash indicate the sound to be given to the combinations underlined.
1. Bd:– sobbed, robed. Bl:– blood, blind, able, feeble. Bld:– fabled, dabbled, trembled, tumbled. Blz:– rambles, pebbles, rumbles, bubbles. Br:– brain, brown, bright, brick. Bz:– describes, cubs, clubs.
2. Ch:– pitch, much, chimney.
3. Dl:– cradle, idle, middle. Dld:– kindled, fondled, huddled. Dlz:– candles, paddles, riddles. Dn:– sadden, ridden, golden. Dr:– dream, dress, drive, drew. Dst:– amidst. Dz:– trades, weeds, sleds, sides.
4. Fl:– flame, fling, baffle, trifle. Flz:– baffles, trifles. Fn:– often, soften. Fr:– frame, frank, friend. Fs:– laughs, griefs. Ft:– abaft, left, lift, soft. Fth:– fifth. Fts:– gifts, lifts, drifts.
5. Gd:– gagged, begged. Gl:– gleams, glide, glory, struggle. Gld:– tangled, mingled, struggled. Glz:– eagles, jungles, struggles. Gr:– grown, grand, agreed, regret. Gz:– rags, eggs, trigs.
6. Jd:– engaged, discouraged, obliged, hedged, dodged, lodged.
7. Kl:– clad, clean, club, circle, sparkle. Klz:– sparkles, articles, spectacles. Kn:– taken, forsaken, broken. Kr:– creep, creek, crying. Ks:– sacks, cheeks, necks, bricks, looks, taxi. Kt:– expect, looked, locked, picked. Kts:– acts, facts, insects. Kst:– next, fixed, mixed. Ksth:– sixth.
8. Lb:– bulb, bulbous. Ld:– failed, crawled, told, child. Ldz:– fields, wilds, shields. Lf:– half, self, wolf. Lj:– indulge, divulge. Ljd:– indulged, divulged. Lk:– milk, silk, bulk, skulk. Lks:– silks, sulks. Lm:– helm, elm, film. Lmz:– overwhelms, helms, elms. Ln:– fallen, swollen, stolen. Lp:– help, yelp. Lps:– helps, scalps. Lpt:– scalped, helped. Ls:– false, else, convulse. Lst:– convulsed. Lt:– fault, felt, bolt, result. Lth:– health, wealth, filth. Lts:– melts, colts, results. Lv:– solve, twelve, resolve. Lvd:– delved, resolved. Lvz:– ourselves, wolves, involves. Lz:– balls, miles, angels, jewels.
9. Md:– benumbed, dimmed, dreamed, formed, ashamed, slammed, assumed. Mf:– triumph, nymph. Mp:– lamp, jump, pump. Mps:– glimpse, camps. Mt:– stamped, tempt, prompt. Mts:– attempts. Mz:– claims, beams, gems, comes, limbs.
10. Nch:– branch, quench, bench. Ncht:– drenched, pinched. Nd:– land, fond, mind. Ndz:– hands, kinds, winds, pounds. Ng:– sing, young, wrong. Ngd:– belonged. Nk:– drank, think, sunk. Nks:– banks, flanks, thanks, anxious. Nkt:– thanked, planked. Ngth:– length, strength. Ngz:– hangs, belongs, stings. Nj:– revenge, plunge. Njd:– fringed, tinged, revenged. Nkt:– distinct, extinct. Nt:– want, sent, hunt. Nths:– months, hyacinths. Nts:– wants, events, tints, accounts. Ns:– dance, expense, intense. Nst:– against, chanced, convinced. Nz:– pains, means, bones, ones.
11. Pl:– play, simple, reply. Pld:– trampled, dimpled. Plz:– apples, examples, principles. Pn:– open, deepen. Pr:– pray, price, prime. Ps:– lips, drops, types, hoops. Pt:– kept, stooped, clipped. Pth:– depth. Pts:– precepts.
12. Rb:– warbling, superb. Rbd:– disturbed, curbed. Rbz:– garbs, orbs, curbs. Rch:– arch, march, torch. Rd:– hard, board, furred. Rdz:– herds, birds, words. Rf:– scarf, wharf. Rj:– large, charge, urge. Rjd:– enlarged, urged. Rk:– spark, jerk, embark. Rks:– remarks, lurks, works. Rkt:– marked, worked. Rl:– girl, pearl, whirl. Rld:– world, hurled. Rldz:– worlds. Rlz:– girls, pearls, whirls. Rm:– warm, charm, firm. Rmd:– formed, performed. Rmth:– warmth. Rmz:– arms, forms, terms. Rn:– thorn, mourn, turn. Rnz:– learns, earns, warns. Rnd:– learned, burned, adorned. Rp:– carp, sharp, harp. Rs:– horse, purse, scarce. Rst:– forced, thirst, burst, first. Rt:– part, short, port. Rth:– dearth, forth, north. Rths:– hearths, earths. Rts:– hearts, forts, sorts. Rv:– deserve, starve. Rvd:– served, swerved. Rvz:– starves, serves. Rz:– cars, tears, doors.
13. Sh:– wash, shoot, shouts. Shr:– shrewd, shrill, shrink, shrub. Sht:– lashed, wished, rushed. Sk:– bask, scold, school. Skr:– screams, scrub, screw. Sks:– tasks, tusks, husks. Skt:– asked, frisked, risked. Sl:– slate, slide, sloop. Sm:– small, smiled, smoke. Sn:– snap, snuff, snow, person. Snz:– persons, lessons. Sp:– spare, speak, spoil. Spl:– spleen, splendor. Spr:– spread, sprightly, spring. Spt:– clasped, gasped, grasped. Sps:– wasps, grasps. St:– placed, dust, stay, steal, sting. Str:– straight, strikes, strength. Sts:– nests, exists, roosts. Sw:– sweet, swing, swept.
14. Th:– they, though, leather. Th:– breath, truth, youth. Thd:– clothed, wreathed, sheathed. Thr:– thrilled, thrusts, throttle. Thz:– clothes, mouths. Ths:– faiths. Tl:– cattle, gentle, little, turtle. Tld:– settdle, titled. Tlz:– battles, nettles, titles. Tn:– cotton, shorten. Tr:– trade, trust, paltry. Ts:– traits, sweets, roots. Tw:– between, twine.
15. Vd:– saved, perceived, moved. Vl:– evil, weevil. Vlz:– evils. Vz:– waves, leaves, gives.
16. Wh:– what, where, when, whale, white.
LESSON SEVEN: Text-speak
Since “ate”, “ait”, and “eight” have the same sound, and “eight” and “8” are the same, then late becomes l8, and later becomes l8r, wait becomes w8 and gate becomes g8. “Wait for me at the gate.” Becomes “w8 4 me @ the g8”. Text-speak goes directly to the sound (meaning) without concern for the spelling (shape). This allows for much shorter, faster, easier-to-type SMS or Email messages. Text-speak is now so common and widely used that there is a section in your Learner’s Dictionary on this.
2 Ys U R
2 Ys U B
I C U R
2 Ys 4 me!
List of dialects of the English language
This is a list of dialects of the English language. Dialects are linguistic varieties which differ in pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar from each other and from Standard English (which is itself a dialect).
Dialects can be usefully defined as “sub-forms of languages which are, in general, mutually comprehensible”. British linguists distinguish dialect from accent, which refers only to pronunciation. Thus, any educated English speaker can use the vocabulary and grammar of Standard English, but different speakers use their own local words for everyday objects or actions, regional accent, or Received Pronunciation, which within the U.K. is considered an accent distinguished by class rather than by region. American linguists, however, include pronunciation differences as part of the definition of regional or social dialects. The combination of differences in pronunciation and use of local words may make some English dialects almost unintelligible from one region to another. The major native dialects of English are often divided by linguists into the three general categories of the British Isles dialects, those of North America and those of Australia and Oceania.
- Black British English
- England (English language in England)
- Cumbrian (Cumbria including Barrow-in-Furness)
- Geordie (Tyneside)
- Lancastrian (Lancashire)
- Scouse (Merseyside)
- Mancunian-Salfordian (Manchester & Salford)
- Mackem (Sunderland)
- Northumbrian (rural Northumberland)
- Pitmatic (Durham and Northumberland)
- Yorkshire (also known as Broad Yorkshire or Tyke)
- In the far north, local speech is noticeably Scots in nature.
- East Midlands
- West Midlands
- West Country
- American English(AmE, AmEng, USEng)
- Northeastern dialects
- Inland Northern American English (includes western and central upstate New York)
- Mid-Atlantic dialects
- Inland North American (Lower peninsula of Michigan, northern Ohio and Indiana, the suburbs of Chicago, part of eastern Wisconsin and upstate New York)
- North Central American English (primarily Minnesota, but also most of Wisconsin, the Upper peninsula of Michigan, and parts of North Dakota, South Dakota, and Iowa)
- Midland American English
- Southern English
- Western English
- Canadian English(CanE, CanEng)
- Bermudian English
- Native American Englishes (Amerindian Englishes)
- Caribbean English
Central and South America
- Burmese English
- Hong Kong English
- Pakistani English
- Indian English
- Malaysian English(MyE)
- Philippine English (PhE)
- Singapore English
- Sri Lankan English (SLE)
- Cameroon English
- Liberian English
- Nigerian Standard English
- Malawian English
- South African English
- East African English
- Australian English(AusE, AusEng)
- Fijian English
- New Zealand English (NZE, NZEng)
The following are portmanteaus devised to describe certain local creoles of English. Although similarly named, they are actually quite different in nature, with some being genuine mixed languages, some being instances of heavy code-switching between English and another language, some being genuine local dialects of English used by first-language English speakers, and some being non-native pronunciations of English. A few portmanteaus (such as Greeklish and Fingilish) are transliteration methods rather than any kind of spoken variant of English.
- Anglish (English stressing words of Germanic origin)
- Arabish (Arabic English, mostly chat romanization)
- Benglish (Bengali English)
- Chinglish (Chinese English)
- Czenglish (Czech English)
- Danglish (Danish English)
- Dunglish (Dutch English)
- Engrish/Japlish (Japanese English)/Engbrew (English Hebrew) – most popularly refers to broken English used by Japanese and in Hebrew in attempts at foreign branding.
- Finglish (Finnish English)
- Franglais (French English)
- Denglisch/Germlish/Genglish/Ginglish/Germish/Pseudo-Anglicism (German English)
- Hebrish (Hebrew English, chat romanization) – also sometimes used to refer to English written with Hebrew characters
- Hinglish (Hindi English)
- Italgish (Italian English)
- Konglish (South Korean English)
- Manglish (Malaysian English)
- Malglish (Maltese English)
- Poglish/Ponglish (Polish English)
- Porglish (Portuguese English)
- Punglish (Punjabi English)
- Rominglish/Romglish (Romanian English)
- Runglish (Russian English)
- Serblish (Serbian English) and Cronglish/Croglish/Croenglish
- Sardish (Sardinian English)
- Siculish (Sicilian English)
- Singlish (Singapore English, multiple pidgins)
- Spanglish (Spanish English)
- Swanglish/Kiswanglish (Swahili English)
- Swenglish (Swedish English)
- Taglish (Tagalog English)
- Tinglish/Thailish (Thai English)
- Vinish (Vietnamese English)
- Wenglish (Welsh English)
- Yeshivish (Yeshiva English)
- Survey of English Dialects
- Regional accents of English
- Regional accents of English speakers
- History of the English language
- Macaronic language
- European English
- English-based creole languages
- List of Chinese dialects
- World Englishes
- Sounds Familiar? Listen to examples of regional accents and dialects from across the UK on the British Library’s ‘Sounds Familiar?’ website
- English accents and dialects A browsable collection of recordings by the British Library
- Sound Comparisons – accents of English from around the world Hear and compare how the same 110 words are pronounced in 50 English accents from around the world – instantaneous playback online
- A national map of the regional dialects of American English
- BBC sound archive of accents in the British Isles
- whoohoo.co.uk British Dialect Translator Translate text into regional dialects from the British Isles
- IDEA – International Dialects of English Archive
- Speech accent archive
- Dialect poetry from the English regions
- American Languages: Our Nation’s Many Voices: An online audio resource presenting interviews with speakers of German-American and American English dialects from across the United States
- The Dialect Dictionary Compilation of dialects from around the globe
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