Do you like to play on the swing? This question contains three words with English diphthongs that make your mouth feel like it’s sliding around: “like,” “play,” and “swing.” You can learn English online to get a detailed overview of diphthong words with relevant examples and appropriate use.
There are several English learning books that can provide guidance but if you searching to learn the practical use of diphthong words, you are just at the right place. In this article, we will go over the top English diphthongs, the best tips for mastering them, and how to pronounce each one.
Before moving on to the top English diphthongs, it is important for us to be clear regarding what diphthongs’ words actually are.
A vowel is a sound produced by the human mouth that is not obstructed (blocked) by the teeth, tongue, or lips, according to the Cambridge English Dictionary. American English, for example, is said to have 14 vowel sounds, which are often classified as long and short vowel sounds.
The term “diphthong” is derived from the Greek word for “two sounds.” According to that definition, a diphthong is a sound that combines two vowel sounds. In fact, these two vowel sounds are so close together in pronunciation that they almost sound like one instead of two!
While technically any two vowel sounds pronounced together can be considered a diphthong, American English only has eight major diphthongs.
Remember that this number may differ from one English dialect to the next. For example, the English spoken in the United Kingdom may have a different number and pronunciation of these diphthongs.
There are a few tips that can help you learn diphthong words in English naturally and without making much effort.
View a YouTube video. Listen to five of the eight American English diphthongs in a video by Rachel’s English. She breaks down the pronunciation of each diphthong in simple terms and then provides examples of common words that contain the diphthongs.
View videos of native speakers using diphthongs. While watching English-learning videos is beneficial, the next step is to listen to how native speakers use diphthongs in their own speech.
Use diphthongs and record yourself. If you want to do more than just listen, listen to diphthong words. Use and record them. It will also improve your pronunciation.
Let us just take a closer look at the eight most common diphthongs in American English.
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/aʊ/ as in “Town”
This diphthong can be spelled in a variety of ways and is commonly written as ow or ou within English words. Aside from “town,” other words with the /a/ diphthong are “brown,” “frown,” “mouth,” and “pound.” It is also used in the interjection “Ow!” to express pain or discomfort when someone is injured.
Remember that this diphthong is pronounced differently in different dialects of English, most notably Canadian English.
/aɪ/ as in “Light”
This diphthong is commonly written as igh, but it can also be represented in English words by a single I or y. When written as a single ‘I’ it is usually followed by a consonant and then an e, as in “bite” or “crime.”
Other words that contain this diphthong include “might,” “pride,” “bike,” “cry,” and “why.” It was also the inspiration for the first two diphthong words in the question, “like” and “slide.” This diphthong is also pronounced differently in different dialects of English.
/eɪ/ as in “Play”
In English, the diphthong /eɪ/ has several different spellings. It can be spelled ay, ai, ei, ey, ea, or with a single a. When written as a single a, /e/, like our previous diphthong, is usually followed by a consonant and then an e, as in the words “plate” or “blame.”
Other words with this diphthong include “may,” “wait,” “freight,” “they,” “great,” and “space.”
/eə/ as in “Pair”
The pronunciation of this diphthong is very similar to that of the /e/ diphthong, but it occurs more frequently before the letter r. It is commonly written as an ai, a single e, or a single a preceding an r.
This diphthong appears in words like “fair,” “hair,” “mare,” and “where.”
/ɪə/ as in “Deer”
/ɪə/, like our previous diphthong, is commonly used before certain consonants. It can appear before the letter r, but it can also appear before the letter l. It’s usually written as ee, ea, or a single e before a r or l.
Other examples include “peel,” “dear,” “meal,” and “atmosphere.”
/oʊ/ as in “Slow”
The diphthong /oʊ/ is a very useful diphthong. It can be written in a variety of ways, including ow, oa, or a single o followed by a consonant and an e.
Other words that contain this diphthong include “know,” “boat,” and “poke.”
/ɔɪ/ as in “Toy”
Following on from our previous diphthong, you’ll be relieved to know that this one is easier to identify based on spelling. Simply put, it’s commonly written as oy or oi, as in “boy,” “void,” and “employ.”
/ʊə/ as in “Sure”
The /ʊə/ diphthong is like a spider hiding beneath that slide we’ve been discussing—sometimes it’s difficult to tell if it’s even there!
This is because, even in American English, this diphthong is sometimes pronounced as a single vowel sound. That is, the sound at the end of “sure” may sound more like the English word “purr,” which only has one vowel sound.
In fact, this diphthong is more commonly associated with British English dialects. It is usually written as u and comes before an r. Other words with this diphthong include “pure,” “jury,” and “curious.”
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|Cry, My, Like, Bright, Lime
|Bake, rain, lay, eight, break
|Go, oh, slow, loan, though
|Pair, lair, chair
|Boy, coy, toy
Some diphthongs on this list contain only one vowel. You might be wondering why single vowels are included in the diphthong list. This occurs whenever you move your mouth while pronouncing the letters. It will aid in producing the long vowel sound as well as mimicking two vowels. As a result, even if there is only one vowel, the “di” remains.
Isn’t it difficult to learn diphthong words in English? Remember that learning a language other than your native tongue does not happen overnight. However, if you work hard and consistently, you can achieve the necessary fluency in one to two months.
It is also critical to use the proper learning approach. If you are looking to find an English teacher online, then you should check out italki to see their personalized learning approaches. These customized instructional approaches can help you overcome your difficulties with diphthong words in English and also give you the exercises to use them in your personal and professional English writing.
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