The Letter U

In this lesson, we will learn about all the sounds of the letter U. It is the twenty-first letter of the English alphabet. Still aiming at learning more? C'mon.

"The Letter U" in the English Alphabet

U is the twenty-first letter and the fifth vowel letter of the English alphabet.

Vowels are sounds that are pronounced without any restriction in the vocal tract. It means we can produce it with the unrestricted flow of air.

Uppercase Form U
Lowercase u
Name u (pronounced /ˈjuː/)
Common Sounds /ʌ/, /uː/, /ə/, /ʊ/, /ju:/

The Letter U: Sounds

Vowels in the English language can have many many sounds. Here we will look at some of its common ones.

Common Sounds

Sound 1: /ʌ/

The letter 'u' mainly sounds /ʌ/:

bus /bʌs/

under /ˈʌndə(r)/

drum /drʌm/

Sound 2: /uː/

'u' also sounds /u:/ in some words:

feud /fjuːd/

druid /ˈdruːɪd/

June /dʒuːn/

Sound 3: /ə/

'u' can sound /ə/ if it comes before 's' in the last syllable of a word:

walrus /ˈwɔːlrəs/

circus /ˈsɜːkəs/

virus /ˈvaɪrəs/

Sound 4: /ʊ/

'u' also sounds /ʊ/:

push /pʊʃ/

pull /pʊl/

bush /bʊʃ/

Sound 5: /ju/

'u' sometimes sounds /ju/:

use /juːz/

computer /kəmˈpjuːtə(r)/

united /juˈnaɪtɪd/

Other Sounds

Sound 6: /ʊə/

'u' also sounds /ʊə/:

insurance /ɪnˈʃʊərəns/

luxurious /lʌɡˈʒʊəriəs/

Sound 7: /w/

'u' sometimes sounds /w/ if it is placed after g' or 'q' and before a vowel:

penguin /ˈpeŋɡwɪn/

quack /kwæk/

harlequin /ˈhɑːləkwɪn/

Sound 8: /ɪ/

'u' also sounds /ɪ/ in some cases:

busy /ˈbɪzi/

business /ˈbɪznəs/

Sound 9: /jʊə/

'u' sounds /jʊə/:

purify /ˈpjʊərɪfaɪ/

security /sɪˈkjʊərəti/

fury /ˈfjʊəri/

Tip

The letter 'u' also has the /e/ sound in a few words:

bury /ˈberi/

The Letter U: Multigraphs

'U' can also appear in combination with other letters (mainly vowels and sometimes consonants). They can create distinct vowels:

ue

'ue' at the end or in the middle of words sounds /u:/

blue /bluː/

glue /ɡluː/

clue /kluː/

ui

'ui' together sounds /uː/:

fruit /fruːt/

juice /dʒuːs/

suit /suːt/

However, 'ui' sometimes sounds /ɪ/:

biscuit /ˈbɪskɪt/

building /ˈbɪldɪŋ/

circuit /ˈsɜːkɪt/

ou

'ou' in the middle of words has four sounds; the first one is / aʊ/:

house /haʊs/

cloud /klaʊd/

mountain /ˈmaʊn.tɪn/

'ou' also sounds /ʌ/:

touch /tʌtʃ/

tough /tʌf/

cousin /ˈkʌz.ən/

'ou' also sounds /uː/:

group /ɡruːp/

soup /suːp/

you /juː/

'ou' also sounds /əʊ/:

shoulder /ˈʃəʊldə(r)/

boulder /ˈbəʊldə(r)/

soul /səʊl/

'ou' at the end of words sounds /ə/:

enormous /ɪˈnɔː.məs/

famous /ˈfeɪ.məs/

outrageous /ˌaʊtˈreɪ.dʒəs/

Tip

In the word 'cough', the letters 'ou' sounds /ɒ/:

cough /kɒf/

Another exception is the word 'tourist'. 'ou' in this word sounds either /ʊə/ or /ɔː/. Take a look:

tourist /ˈtʊə.rɪst/ /ˈtɔː.rɪst/

our

'our' mainly sounds /ɔː/:

four /fɔː(r)/

court /kɔːt/

'our' also sounds /ə/ at the end of words:

harbour /ˈhɑːbə(r)/

vapour /ˈveɪpə(r)/

labour /ˈleɪbə(r)/

'our' also sounds /ʊə/ or /ɔː/ in British English pronunciation:

contour /ˈkɒntʊə(r)/

tour /tʊə(r)/, /tɔː(r)/

tourist /ˈtʊərɪst/, /ˈtɔːrɪst/

ough

'ough' sounds /aʊ/:

drought /draʊt/

bough/baʊ/

'ough' sounds /əʊ/ in some words:

although /ɔːlˈðəʊ/

doughnut /ˈdəʊnʌt/

'ough' also sounds /ɔː/:

thought /θɔːt/

brought /brɔːt/

sought /sɔːt/

'ough' also sounds /ə/:

thorough /ˈθʌrə/

borough /ˈbʌrə/

au

'au' sounds /ɔː/:

sauce /sɔːs/

August /ɔːˈɡʌst/

laundry /ˈlɔːn.dri/

'au' also sounds /ɒ/ in some words:

because /bɪˈkɒz/

sausage /ˈsɒs.ɪdʒ/

'au' also sounds /ɑː/:

aunt /ɑːnt/

laugh /lɑːf/

Tip

'au' in French loanwords sounds /əʊ/:

aubergine /ˈəʊ.bə.ʒiːn/

mauve /məʊv/

aur

'aur' sounds /ɔː(r)/:

centaur /ˈsentɔː(r)/

tyrannosaurus /tɪˌrænəˈsɔːrəs/

augh

'augh' sounds /ɔː/:

caught /kɔːt/

daughter /ˈdɔːtə(r)/

naughty /ˈnɔːti/

eau

'eau' mainly in French loanwords sounds /əʊ/:

gateau /ˈɡætəʊ/

plateau /ˈplætəʊ/

chateau /ˈʃætəʊ/

Orthography

One thing to note is that certain varieties of the English language (i.e. British English, Canadian English, etc.) use the letter U in words such as colour, labour, valour, etc.; however, in American English the letter is not used and said words mentioned are spelled as color and so on.

The Letter U: Uses

The letter ⟨u⟩ is used in
text messaging and internet and other written slang to denote 'you', by virtue of both being pronounced /juː/.

Comments

Loading recaptcha

You might also like

The Letter R

How has it been so far? Here, we will learn about all the sounds of the letter R. It is the eighteenth letter of the English alphabet. Let's begin.

The Letter S

In this lesson, we will learn about all the sounds of the letter S. It is the nineteenth letter of the English alphabet. Wanna come in?

The Letter T

I'm sure you've come across this letter. Let's learn about all the sounds of the letter T. It is the twentieth letter of the English alphabet.

The Letter V

In this lesson, we will learn about all the sounds of the letter V. It is the twenty-second and fifth-to-last letter of the English alphabet. C'mon then.

The Letter W

In this lesson, we will learn about all the sounds of the letter W. It is the twenty-third and fourth-to-last letter of the English alphabet. Let's begin.

The Letter X

In this lesson, we will learn about all the sounds of the letter X. It is the twenty-fourth and third-to-last letter of the English alphabet. Let's continue.
LanGeek
Download LanGeek app