Pronunciation of O sounds

English Pronunciation: Sounds with O

The American O sounds can be difficult. There are 3 distinct sounds, the short O as in “hot,” the long O as in “boat,” and the reduced O. The phonetic name is the schwa sound, as in “above” (say “abuv”). The basic rules are these:

  • use short O for simple spellings in words or word parts
  • use long O  with complex spellings, i.e., a silent vowel near the O
  • use the reduced O (the “u” as in “up”); sometimes, when O is not stressed
  • most exceptions to the above rules will be found in very common words

Overall, the best thing to do is realize that O has three sounds. Listen carefully to American English speakers and take the time to look up the pronunciation of words.

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SHORT OLONG OREDUCED O
beyondboneabove
blogbowlblood
bodyboldlabor
broughtbrokebrother
complementcombcompany
conferenceaccording complete
confidentcoursecountry
costcoldcover
dogdon’tdiscover
dollarsdonatedevelop
holidayhomehoney
involveinnovateincome
jobjokemajor
lossalonetailor
lotloadlove
modernmotivatemonth
officeordereffort
oftenoldoccur
onlineonlyother
possiblepostpossess
probablyprobepolice
problemproseprocedure
productprogramposition
profitproteinpotential
rockroadreligion
softsconesome
solidsoldsolidity
solvesocialsociety
stockstolesolution
thoughtthoughtthorough
tosstoasttoday
wokworework

Notes on Other Spellings and Sounds

AU/AW – usually has a short O sound: audio, cause, auto, launch, draw, saw, law, awful
OU/OW (double vowel as in “ouch”): down, flower, vowel, out, south, accounting, round, sound, pound, found, about, count, brown, thousand
OI/OY (double vowel, long O to long E): point, boy
OO (spelling of a long U sound): boot, food. Or use relaxed sound as in “book.” Study these sounds.

To perfect your O sounds, try these words that have 2 different O sounds: download, follow, broccoli, common, thorough, outrageous, commodity, outsource, opposite, cholesterol, coronary, technology, economy, opponent, proposal

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