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A Comparison of the Long and Short Vowels with Examples

Priyanka Athavale Jan 25, 2019
Did you know that vowels can become long or short depending on the way they sound. This post compares and explains long and short vowels, along with some examples.

Double Trouble

Y is the only letter in the English alphabet that is used as both a vowel and a consonant. It makes the sound of 'E' in words like very, dizzy, merry, flaky, snoopy, and the sound of 'I' in words like cry, try, my, sky, deny. It sounds like a consonant in other wards like yell, yank, yes, yield, yours. Isn't it such a versatile little letter?
There are five basic vowels in the English language. These are 'a', 'e', 'i', 'o', and 'u'. Vowels are the sounds that are produced by the vocal cords rather freely, in a more open manner. Consonants are letters that do not have their own sounds, and hence need to rely on vowels to be pronounced.
They are always used around vowels to create various words with different sounds. Depending on the sounds, the vowels used in the words are classified as long or short.

All the vowels in the English alphabet have their own unique pronunciations, but their sounds are modified in many words, depending on the other accompanying letters.
Singularly though, they are make the following sounds -

A - aay
E - ee
I - eye
O - oh
U - you

Let us now see the difference between long and short vowels.

What is a long vowel?

A long vowel is one where the sound it makes in the word, is the same as its name. For example, in the word day, the 'a' makes a sound similar to its pronunciation as a single object. Let's take another word, me. Here also, the 'e' sounds as it originally does without any accompanying letters.

Day - d-aa-y
Me - m-ee
There are some basic rules to determine when a vowel is long. These are as follows.

I. A lone vowel, i.e. one that does not have any other letter following it, is a long vowel. Examples are go, no, hi, me, be.
II. If there are two vowels following each other in a word, then the second is usually silent, making the first one long. Examples are road, glue, toast, gleam, vain.

III. If a word containing a vowel has an 'e' at the end, then the vowel is invariably a long one. Examples are name, home, gone, mine, theme, fluke.
Here are some more examples.
Plain, make, fruit, clay, bait, stay, grade, take, see, beat, mere, weed, tree, wise, cry, tire, like, try, hive, stole, bone, roam, snow, boat, joke, suit, blue, fruit, prune, few, cube, and glue.

What is a short vowel?

Short vowels are the exact opposite of long vowels. Here, the pronunciation of the vowel is not the same as its name. For example, cat, pot.
The rules for determining whether a vowel is short are as follows -

I. A vowel is short if it is followed by a consonant. Examples are mat, lit, ant, keg, put, cup.

II. A vowel that is followed by two consonants is short. Examples are mark, kept, fist, lock, puck
Here are some more examples.
Flag, lamp, dip, dirt, wet, zest, top, lost, gun, hurl, fox, man, tin, mock, flog, curt, test, band, web, swim, milk, box, drop, stick, and puff.
The fundamental and possibly only difference between long and short vowels is in the way they sound. The former says the name of the vowel while the latter does not. This concept does not apply only to 3 and 4 letter words, it is found in bigger words as well.
It is very easy to differentiate between long and short vowels once you understand the rules and look at a few examples. This was all there is to know about long and short vowels. A very easy concept that is fun to study, and even more fun to guess the words, it will never bore you out.