in British English

I'm pretty sure you've come across this multigraph. Even if you have no idea how we use it, it's fine. I'm gonna teach you all about it here.

English Multigraph "ai"

'ai' as a digraph has five sounds that we are going to talk about here.

Digraphs are a set of two letters that stand together and produce a new sound.

Digraph ai
Name ai (pronounced /ˈeɪ ˈaɪ/)
Sound(s) /eɪ/, /e/, /eə/, /ə/, /ɪ/, /æ/

The Digraph 'ai'

Sound 1: /eɪ/

'ai' standing in the middle of a word mainly sounds /eɪ/:

snail /sneɪl/

train /treɪn/

rain /reɪn/

claim /ˈkleɪm/

obtain /əbˈteɪn/

Tip

'ai' can also stand at the beginning of these two words and sounds /eɪ/

aid /eɪd/

aim /eɪm/

Sound 2: /e/

'ai' can also sound /e/ standing in the middle of words:

again /əˈɡen/

said /sed/

against /əˈɡenst/

Sound 3: /eə/

'ai' in the middle of words also sounds /eə/:

fair /ˈfeə.(r)/

dairy /ˈdeə.ri/

hair /ˈheə(r)/

chair /tʃeər/

pair /peə(r)/

Tip

The beginning 'ai' in the word air sounds /eə/ in British English:

air /eə(r)/

Sound 4: /ə/

'ai' in 'ain' can sound /ə/. Note that 'ain' must be positioned in the second syllable of words:

curtain /ˈkɜː.tən/

certain /ˈsɜː.tən/

villain /ˈvɪl.ən/

Sound 5: /ɪ/

'ai' can also sound /ɪ/ in 'ain' when it comes in the final syllable of a word:

bargain /ˈbɑː.ɡɪn/

mountain /ˈmaʊn.tɪn/

porcelain /ˈpɔː.səl.ɪn/

Sound 6: /æ/

'ai' also sounds /æ/:

plait /plæt/

plaid /plæd/

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