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.
|Short O||Long O||Reduced O|
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 a 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, and proposal.