Image: Vowels and consonants
Image: Vowels and consonants

The English Language has 44 English sounds. They can be divided into two main categories: consonants and vowels. A consonant sound is a sound where the airflow is stopped, either partially or completely, when the sound is uttered. This topic is essential for competitive exams and thus here we are with a detailed article. Download the Eduriefy app now to have a clearer idea.


On the other hand, a vowel sound is a sound where the airflow is unstopped when the sound is produced. The vowel sounds are the rhyme, or shift of our language. Monophthongs and diphthongs are the two categories of vowel sounds. Vowel sounds are also divided into long vowel sounds and short vowel sounds.


In English, a, e, I, o, u, and sometimes y are the vowel letters. The rest of the letters in the alphabet represent consonants such as b, d, g, n, r, s, and t. some consonants produce more than one sound.


What is a Vowel?


A vowel is a speech sound where the mouth is open and the tongue doesn’t touch the top of the mouth, the teeth, etc so that the flow of air is not limited. It is necessary to know that there is a difference between a vowel sound and a vowel letter in the alphabet.


The English vowel sounds are written with letters in the English alphabet. All English words have vowel letters. They are vowels in English: A, E, I, O, U, and sometimes Y.  Y is “sometimes” a vowel because the letter Y presents both vowel and consonant sounds, like ‘fry’.


Six vowel letters are used to indicate the 13-15 vowel sounds in English. This means the vowel sounds are more than letters in the English alphabet. Monophthongs and diphthongs are the two main categories of vowel sounds.



A monophthong is simply a vowel. The word mono represents one and the diphthong represents a sound. This means that monophthong represents one vowel sound in the word. If you notice the position of the tongue, the mouth will stay the same when these words are uttered.



A diphthong is a mix of two vowel sounds or vowel letters, like the sounds /aɪ/ in pipe /paɪp/ or the letters ou in doubt. The part ‘di’ represents two and the other part represents sounds. Although a diphthong has two different vowel sounds, they stay within the same syllable or unit of sound.


The best way to know if a word has a diphthong with two vowel sounds, or a monophthong, is to listen to how it sounds when you say it out loud. If the vowel sound changes within the same syllable, it’s most certainly a diphthong.



A consonant is a sound that is produced by blocking air from flowing out of the mouth with the teeth, tongue, lips, or palate. Consonants may come alone or in clusters but have to be connected to a vowel to form a syllable.


English has 21 consonant letters, for 24 consonant sounds in most English accents:  H, J, K, L, M B, C, D, F, G, N, P, Q, R, S, T, V, W, X,  Z and (sometimes Y). The letter ‘y’ produces a consonant sound if at the beginning of a word ‘yellow’ but a vowel sound if at the end of a word ‘sunny’.


Consonant Digraphs

Digraphs are two letters that produce just one sound. These are the seven basic consonant digraphs; ch, CK, th, ch, ph, ng, and wh. Yet, some digraphs have more than one pronunciation.  ‘ghosts’ are some digraphs like ‘wr’ and ‘gn’  because the first letter is not pronounced.


Consonant Blends

A consonant blend occurs when two or more consonants are blended, yet each sound may be heard in the blend. The most common beginning consonant blends include: pl, pr, sl, sm, sp and st, bl, br, cl, cr, dr, fr, tr, fl, cl, gr. Blends can also appear at the end of words.


Blends are most of the time categorized into r-blends, such as “br” and “cr”, s-blends, such as “sc” and “SK” and l-blends, such as “bl” and “cl”. Some blends include three consonants. Popular three consonant blends include str, spl, and spr.



Consonant Clusters

Consonant cluster refers to two or more consonants positioned side by side in a word. They are also called consonant blends. The longest possible cluster in English is three consonant sounds at the beginning. They can be up to four consonants long at the end of the word.


So, Vowels and consonants are the two main categories in the English language. There is no English word that contains more than three consecutive consonants. Each word contains at least one vowel sound. The English language has short vowel sounds and long vowel sounds. The pronunciation of the sounds is produced according to the place and manner of articulation.



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