The Letter Y

In this lesson, we will learn about all the sounds of the letter Y. It is the twenty-fifth and penultimate letter of the English alphabet. Join me, will ya?

"The Letter Y" in the English Alphabet

Y is the twenty-fifth and the sixth (or seventh if including W) semi-vowel letter of the English alphabet.

Semi-vowels are sounds between consonants and vowels that are pronounced with some restriction in the vocal tract.

Uppercase Form Y
Lowercase y
Name wye (pronounced /ˈwaɪ/)
Sounds /j/, /i/, /aɪ/, /ɪ/

The Letter Y: Sounds

Common Sounds

The letter Y has four sounds:

Sound 1: /j/

The letter 'y' sounds /j/ before vowels, so 'y' is a consonant here:

yo-yo /ˈjəʊ jəʊ/

yes /jes/

yard /jɑːrd/

beyond /bɪˈjɑːnd/

lawyer /ˈlɔɪər/

canyon /ˈkænjən/

Sound 2: /i/

'y' as a vowel, at the end of a word, sounds /i/:

body /ˈbɑːdi/

pony /ˈpəʊni/

happy /ˈhæpi/

Sound 3: /aɪ/

'y' as a vowel sounds /aɪ/:

sky /skaɪ/

July /dʒuˈlaɪ/

cycle /ˈsaɪkl/

type /taɪp/

Sound 4: /ɪ/

The letter 'y' also sounds /ɪ/ mainly in the middle of words, so it is a vowel:

myth /mɪθ/

crystal /ˈkrɪstl/

pyramid /ˈpɪrəmɪd/

mystery /ˈmɪstəri/

The Letter Y: Combinations

'Y' can be combined with other letters, mainly consonants.

Consonant + Y + Consonant

If 'y' precedes and follows a consonant, it sounds /aɪ/:

type /taɪp/

byte /baɪt/

dyke /daɪk/

ye

'ye' sounds /aɪ/:

bye /baɪ/

rye /raɪ/

dye /daɪ/

The Letter Y: Use

'Y' can be used as
An adjectival suffix in English morphology
A person, a number, an influence, etc. that is not known or not named, like I don't know what X is doing for Y.

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