Phonics on the Web > Vowel Combinations

Vowel Combinations

A vowel combination is a combination of two or three vowels, or of a vowel and at least one consonant, that is associated with one or more specific single sounds. For example, ea has the sounds /long e/ and /long a/; ay has the sound /long a/, and igh has the sound /long i/. These vowel combinations are sometimes called digraphs, diphthongs, trigraphs, and triphthongs.

Vowel combinations occur in three different forms in written English:

  1. Vowels often appear in clusters within a single syllable. This is the most common form.
  2. Vowels often appear in combination with a particular consonant or consonants which, together, represent a sound unit that is different from what you would expect if you didn't know the specific combination. For example, the o in old has the /long o/ sound, but if you didn't already know that already, you would think that the o in cold was short.
  3. Another common combination in English is one or two vowels followed by gh. The gh is usually silent. It is usually easier to decode the whole unit (igh, eigh) than to process the vowel and the gh separately.

A Vowel Combinations

ai/ay

Together, ai or ay make a /long a/ sound.
Example words: aim, rain, braid, paint, ray, say, stay, tail, twain, praise, stain, and main

Other a vowel combinations

  • ay as in day, say, play, spray, and tray
  • au as in fault, gaunt, fraud, launch, pause, and sauce
  • aw as in saw, paw, claw, dawn, and crawl
  • augh as in caught, taught, daughter, naughty, haughty, and slaughter
  • wa /wô/ as in want, wash, swamp, squash, squat
  • wa /wă/ as in wax, wag, swam, and quack
  • all as in ball, tall, hall, and small
  • ald as in bald, scald, and alder
  • alk as in talk, walk, chalk, and stalk
  • alm as in alms, calm, palm, and psalm
  • alt as in halt, malt, and salt

E Vowel Combinations

ee and ea

Together, ee or ea make a /long e/ sound. Sometimes, ea together makes a /short e/ sound or a /long a/ sound instead.
Example words (ee): peek, see, queen, sleep, cheese, street, meet, and team
Example words (ea /long e/): eat, sea, each, leaf, peach, mean, team, ease, and please
Example words (ea /short e/): dead, head, spread, health, and meant
Example words (ea /long a/): break, great, steak, and yea

Other e vowel combinations

  • eu/ew as in sleuth, deuce, few, new, and shrewd
  • ei/ey/eigh /long a/ as in veil, beige, they, whey, eight, and weigh
  • ei/ey/eigh /long e/ as in seize, key, money, valley
  • ei/ey/eigh /long i/ as in heist, eye, geyser, height

I Vowel Combinations

  • ie /long e/ as in brief, field, grieve, and piece
  • ie/ye /long i/ as in die, tie, dye, and rye
  • igh as in high, thigh, night, flight, and wright
  • ign as in sign, align, assign, and benign
  • ind as in bind, kind, mind, grind, and behind

O Vowel Combinations

  • oo as in boo, food, smooth, and moose
  • oo as in book, look, good, and stood
  • oa /long o/ as in oat, loam, groan, loathe, and loaves
  • oe /long o/ as in doe, and hoe
  • oi/oy /y/ as in oil, coin, voice, boy, and ploy
  • old/olk/olt /long o/ as in gold, scold, folk, yolk, bolt, and volt
  • oll/ost /long o/ as in roll, knoll, scroll, ghost, most, and post
  • oll/ost /short o/ as in doll, loll, cost, lost, and frost
  • ou/ow as in out, round, bounce, how, down, and browse
  • ou/ow /long o/ as in soul, poultry, own, glow, snow, and owe
  • ou as in you, soup, group, and rouge

U Vowel Combinations

  • ue /long u/ as in cue, due, hue, rue, sue, blue, clue, flue, glue, and true
  • ui /long u/ as in suit, fruit, cruise, juice, and sluice

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