The English Alphabet

You may think that you know everything about the English alphabet, but in fact, you are wrong! In this lesson, we're going to talk about them in detail.

Alphabet in The English

What Is The English Alphabet?

The word 'alphabet' comes from the Latin word 'alphabetum' which came from the two letters of the Greek alphabet ('alpha' and 'beta'). The English alphabet consists of 26 letters or characters that represent the basic speech sounds. We can write each letter in capital letter (uppercase) or in small letter (lowercase).

The Chart of The English Alphabet

The chart below introduces the letters, their pronunciation, and their names:

Capital letter Small letter Pronunciation Names
A a /eɪ/, /æ/ a
B b /biː/ bee
C c /siː/ cee
D d /diː/ dee
E e /iː/ e
F f /ɛf/ ef
G g /dʒiː/ gee
H h /(h)eɪtʃ/ (h)aitch
I i /aɪ/ i
J j /dʒeɪ/ jay
K k /keɪ/ kay
L l /ɛl/ el
M m /ɛm/ em
N n /ɛn/ en
O o /oʊ/ o
P p /piː/ pee
Q q /kjuː/ cue
R r /ɑːr/ ar
S s /ɛs/ ess
T t /tiː/ tee
U u /juː/ u
V v /viː/ vee
W w /ˈdʌbəl.juː/ double-u
X x /ɛks/ ex
Y y /waɪ/ wy
Z z /zi/, /zɛd/ zee/zed

Tip!

How we read the letters is the same in both British and American English except for the letter 'z'. In British English, we say 'zed' and in American English, we say 'zee'.

Why Do We Have Capital and Small Letters?

There is a belief among historians that capital letters came first. There were only capital letters in the first alphabet. however, over time, letters became smaller and rounded to save time and space. That's because maybe the writers used to write quickly so as time went by, the shape of the letters changed. then they became more popular and common because they were easier to read and write.

Where Do We Use Capital Letters?

You should know that we do not use that much of capital letters in our text because we cannot easily read a text full of capital letters. However, there are some cases in that capital letters must be used. Take a look at the list below:

  • To begin a sentence.
  • For the personal pronoun 'I'.
  • Days of the week, months of the year, holidays.
  • Many abbreviations and acronyms.
  • Proper nouns.
  • Headings and titles.
  • Trade-marks and names of organizations.
  • Places and Monuments.
  • Countries, languages & nationalities, religions.

Alphabetical Order

English alphabet letters start with a and end with z. As shown below, we always write the alphabet in the same order:

  • a-b-c-d-e-f-g-h-i-j-k-l-m-n-o-p-q-r-s-t-u-v-w-x-y-z
  • A-B-C-D-E-F-G-H-I-J-K-L-M-N-O-P-Q-R-S-T-U-V-W-X-Y-Z

Usage of Alphabetical Order

As you may have seen before, many documents and lists are categorized in alphabetical order. Here are some of most common usages of this order:

  • Dictionaries.
  • Indexes of books.
  • Telephone directories.
  • List of countries.
  • The musical alphabet.

Warning

The musical alphabet includes only seven letters. Notice that the original order of the musical alphabet is a bit different from the usual that we know and it is as followed: E, F, G, A, B, C, D.

Phonology

In the English alphabet, the five letters A, E, I, O, and U are vowels. The remaining 21 letters are consonants: B, C, D, F, G, H, J, K, L, M, N, P, Q, R, S, T, V, X, Z, and usually W and Y. The letter 'y' sometimes is a consonant as in 'yet' and sometimes is a vowel as in 'mythology'.
Sometimes the letter 'w' can represent a vowel, but it is very rare as in 'sweet'. That’s why they are called semi-vowels.

Multigraphs

When more than one letter makes one sound, it is called a multigraph. The multigraphs can be made up of consonants, vowels or a mixture of both of them. Some common multigraphs are as followed ch, sh, ck, ph, rh, sc, th, tion, sch, ous, ai, ea, ee, ei, oo and so on.

Tip!

Until 1835, the English alphabet consisted of 27 letters. And the 27th character was called 'ampersand' (&). As you may know, today we still use this sign to indicate the word 'and'. In fact, ampersand comes from the word 'per so, and'. 'Per so' means 'by itself', so the students in that time used to write 'x, y, z, and per se and'. This term was used for letters that also doubled as words such as the letter "me". In brief, it was a symbol, not a word.

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