Categories
phonics

101 Guide on English Phonemes: The 44 Phonemes with Examples + ALL Possible Spellings + Correct Pronunciation!!

In today’s article we are going to go through the 44 English phonemes. But, let’s clarify some KEY concepts before getting started.

What are Phonemes? How are they different from graphemes?

Phonemes are the smallest units of sounds that we can find in a language. For instance: /m/ /a/ /t/ are the 3 phonemes we can find in the word ‘mat.’

I will also give you examples of words containing all the different spelling options there are for each of these phonemes.

The spelling options are called graphemes. In other words, graphemes are the written representation of these phonemes.

So, what we are really going to do today is to going through the English phonemes – graphemes correspondences.

Why is it important to know the 44 English Phonemes?

Use this article (and supporting video – below) as your reference because only by knowing all of this yourself, you will be able to confidently teach and support your children or students to read.

However, do not try to introduce all of these sounds and the different spelling variations at the same time to your students. That can be really overwhelming!

If you are learning English a second language, this guide will help you identify the different sounds that hide behind letters. That training will  be extremely beneficial for your understanding of English and for your pronunciation!

For a FREE chart of the 44 English sounds in pdf format, click here!

 

Consonant sounds

Sound Common spelling Spelling alternatives
/b/ b

bat, bug

bubble, ribbon
/d/ d

dog

add, filled
/f/ f

fun

cliff, phone, laugh, half, often
/g/ g

gum

egg, ghost, guitar, catalogue
/h/ h

hat

who
/j/ j

jam

cage, giraffe, badge, soldier, exaggerate
/k/ k
kite
kite, cat, school, back, acclaim, queen, bouquet, folk, box (x=ks)

 

/l/ l

leaf

spell

 

/m/ m

monkey

summer, lamb, autumn, palm

 

/n/

 

n

nest

funny, knight, gnat, pneumonia

 

/ng/ ng

ring

sink, tongue

 

/p/ p

pig

happy
/r/ r

robot

carrot, wrong, rhyme

 

/s/ s

sun

mess, circle, cent, rice, horse, science, psychology, listen
/t/

 

t

tap

butter, Thomas, clapped

 

/v/ v

van

of, Stephen, five

 

/w/ w

web

why, quick, choir

 

/y/ y

yo-yo

opinion, hallelujah
/z/

 

Z

zebra

buzz, cheese, has, scissors, xylophone, maze

 

For a FREE chart of the 44 English sounds in pdf format, click here!

Consonant sounds (Digraphs)

 

Sound Common spelling Spelling alternatives
/ch/ ch

chat

watch, future, question, righteous

 

/sh/ sh

shark

ocean, sure, station, conscience, special, tension, machine

 

/zh/

 

s

treasure

Vision, azure
/th/ th

thin

 
/th/ th

feather

 

Short vowels

Sound Common spelling Spelling alternatives
/a/ a

apple

plaid, laugh

 

/e/ e

egg

bread, leopard, bury, friend, heifer, said, many, aesthetic
/i/

 

i

igloo

England, women, busy, build, gym, sieve
/o/ o

orange

swan, honest
/u/

 

u

umbrella

monkey, blood, trouble

 

/oo/ oo

book

bush, could, wolf
For a FREE chart of the 44 English sounds in pdf format, click here!

Long vowels

Sound Common spelling Spelling alternatives
/ā/

 

ai

snail

vein, gauge, cake, break, they, baby, sleigh, hay, croquet
/ē/

 

ee

bee

me, seat, lady, key, phoenix, brief, ski, receive, people, quay
/ī/

 

i

spider

kite, fly, pie, buy, aisle, island, height, rye
/ō/

 

oa

boat

bone, open, toe, beau, brooch, sew, low, though

 

/ü/

 

oo

moon

screw, blue, flute, shoe, through, fruit, who, manoeuvre, croup
/y//ü/

 

oo

book

you, few, view, yule, queue, beautiful, feud

 

/oi/ Oi

coin

boy, buoy
/ow/ Ow

cow

shout

R-controlled vowels

Sound Common spelling Spelling alternatives
/ar/ ar

car

Sergeant, heart
/or/ or

fork

door, four, more, board, war
/er/

 

er

father

bird, nurse, work, early, journey, myrtle, chair, dare, where, their

 

/ear/ ear

ear

steer, here, pierce

 

 

/ur/

 

ure

lure

tour
/y/ /ur/ ure

cure

 

 

The schwa sound

/Ə/

(Unstressed vowel sounds)

a

about

carpet, pencil, carrot, upon, syringe

 

Free PHONEMES CHART!  

Key Concepts to Remember

Phoneme

A phoneme is a speech sound. It’s the smallest unit of sound. When combined with other individual sounds in specific order strings, distinguishes one word from another.

Sounds can’t be written. So, the solution that we came up with is using letters to represent these sounds.

Grapheme

A grapheme is the written representation of one sound.

Sometimes a grapheme can be one letter (for instance, the letter ‘b’ represents the /b/ sound in the word ‘bus’), or a group of letters (for instance, the letters ‘ck’ represent the /k/ sound in kick or lock).

44 Phonemes

It is generally agreed that there are around 44 sounds in English.

The final number may depend on the accent or articulation.

The 44 English phonemes are represented by the 26 letters of the Roman alphabet individually and in combination.

Phonics Instruction

Phonics instruction involves teaching the relationship between letters and sounds.

As you can see, there are many spelling alternatives that can be used to represent the 44 English phonemes.

That is why it is so important to follow a systematic approach to teaching reading, that takes into account the complexities of the English language, and introduces concepts gradually.

Consonant Sounds and Vowel Sounds

The 44 English sounds can be divided into two major categories – consonants and vowels.

A consonant sound is one in which the air flow is cut off, either partially or completely, when the sound is produced.

On the other hand, a vowel sound is one in which the air flow is unobstructed when the sound is made.

 

 

 

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.