First, let’s start with the basics and learn about vowel sounds; this will help us when we begin learning about long vowels in English.

Vowel sounds are an essential type of speech sound in the English language. They’re one of the two types of speech sounds we use, along with consonants.

In written English, vowels are represented using the letters ‘ a, ‘e,’ ‘i’, ‘o’, and ‘u.’ The letters ‘w’ and ‘y’ are sometimes thought to be vowels, but in reality, they’re half-vowels, and the sounds they represent are often similar to the vowels ‘u’ and ‘I.’

What are long vowels in English?

Now that we know a bit about these speech sounds, let’s find out about a specific group called long vowel sounds.

A long vowel is where the sound a vowel makes matches its spoken name; this means we have a handy way of remembering which vowel sounds are long in English. For example, the ‘a’ in cake is a long vowel sound pronounced the same as the letter A in the alphabet. To give you another example, the letters ‘e’ and ‘a’ in the word ‘beat’ come together to form a long ‘e’ sound.

There are several ways we can form these long vowels in English. We’ll explore each of these methods in a bit more detail below.

  1. Vowel teams

The fancy name for these is diphthongs, where two vowels or vowel sounds come together in a word to form one sound. When this happens, the resulting sound can be a long vowel. One of the main vowel team rules is that they’re made up of two of the same vowels, such as ‘oo,’ or two different vowels, like ‘ea.’

Some examples of vowel teams creating long vowel sounds are the long ‘a’ sound in the rain and the long ‘e’ sound in the word thief. Another example of a vowel team is the word ‘boy.’ Although ‘y’ isn’t a vowel in the strict sense, it combines with the vowel ‘o’ to form the vowel sound ‘oi.’

What are the vowel team rules?

Let’s take a quick look at the vowel team rules to see when a diphthong represents a long vowel sound. When two vowels are beside each other in a vowel team, it’s typically the first vowel that becomes a long vowel sound while the second vowel is silent. To illustrate the vowel team rules, let’s take a look at several quick examples:

  • In the word ‘beat,’ the ‘e’ is extended while the ‘a’ is silent.
  • In the word ‘goat,’ the ‘o’ represents a long ‘o’ sound while ‘a’ stays silent.
  • In the word ‘pie,’ the ‘I’ in the vowel team is long while the ‘e’ is silent.

Now that we understand the vowel team rules let’s check out some more ways to form long vowels in English.

  1. Vowels at the end of syllables

Another way these sounds are sometimes formed is when a vowel appears at the end of a syllable. For example, the ‘o’ sound at the end of the word halo and the ‘u’ at the end of the ‘mu’ syllable in ‘music’ are both long vowels.

  1. Split digraphs can make a long vowel sound

When a consonant separates a vowel team, we call this a split digraph. This type of vowel team can also make a long vowel sound. For example, the ‘a_e’ in ‘bake’ makes a long ‘a’ sound, as does the ‘i_e’ in the word ‘five.’

What are some words with long vowel sounds?

There are lots of words that contain long vowels in English. Below, we’ve included a few helpful examples to show how the vowels ‘a’ and ‘I’ can form long sounds. Knowing them will help to inform us of how to teach long vowel sounds:Top of Form

Long ‘i’ sound word examples

The long ‘i’ sound can be made in a few different ways.

The letter ‘i’ by itself can be pronounced as a long vowel sound:

  • Bike
  • Kite
  • Drive

As we’ve shown by looking at the vowel team rules, ‘i’ can be a long vowel when it’s the first letter in a vowel team with the letter ‘e’:

  • Lie
  • Die
  • Fries

Another combination of letters that produces the long ‘i’ sound is ‘igh’:

  • High
  • Light
  • Night

The letter ‘y’ on its own can also create this long vowel sound:

  • Sky
  • Fry
  • By

Extended ‘a’ sound word examples

There are several ways to form a word’s long ‘a’ sound.

An ‘a’ by itself can be pronounced as a long vowel sound:

  • Ale
  • Ape
  • Whale

The combination of the letters ‘ei’ can also create the long ‘a’ sound, which can be confusing. Here are some examples:

  • Rein
  • Vein
  • Neigh

Following the vowel team rules, The vowel team ‘ai’ also creates the long ‘a’ vowel sound:

  • Gain
  • Paid
  • Aim

Another option is the ‘ay’ combination:

  • Day
  • Way
  • Say
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