The Letter O in American English

In this lesson, we will learn about all the sounds of the letter O. I hope you're still interested because we're about to learn about the fifteenth letter now.

"The Letter O" in the English Alphabet

The fifteenth letter of the English alphabet is 'O'. It is also the fourth vowel in the English language.

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 O
Lowercase o
Name o (pronounced /oʊ/)
Common Sounds /ɑː/, /oʊ/, /uː/, /ʌ/, /ə/

The Letter O: 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: /ɑː/

'o' sounds /ɑː/:

clock /klɑːk/

stop /stɑːp/

mop /mɑːp/

Sound 2: /oʊ/

'o' also sounds /oʊ/:

potato /pəˈteɪ.t̬oʊ/

hotel /hoʊˈtel/

radio /ˈreɪ.di.oʊ/

Sound 3: /uː/

'o' can also sound /uː/:

to /tuː/

movement /ˈmuːv.mənt/

lose /luːz/

Sound 4: /ʌ/

'o' also sounds /ʌ/:

mother /ˈmʌð.ɚ/

some /sʌm/

oven /ˈʌv.ən/

Sound 5: /ə/

'o' sounds /ə/:

bacon /ˈbeɪ.kən/

lemon /ˈlem.ən/

mirror /ˈmɪr.ɚ/

Other Sounds

Sound 6: /ʊ/

'o' sounds /ʊ/:

wolf /wʊlf/

woman /ˈwʊm.ən/

Sound 7: /wʌ/

'o' also sounds /wʌ/:

once /wʌns/

one /wʌn/

Tip

'o' can also sound /ɪ/ in the word 'women':

women /ˈwɪm.ɪn/

The Letter O: Multigraphs

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

oo

'oo' mainly sounds /uː/:

tooth /tuːθ/

broom /bruːm/

spoon /spuːn/

'oo' in the middle of words sounds /ʊ/:

foot /fʊt/

hook /hʊk/

book /bʊk/

'oo' also sounds /ʌ/ in some words:

blood /blʌd/

flood /flʌd/

'oo' can also sound /ɔ:/:

door /dɔːr/

poor /pʊr/

floor /flɔːr/

oa

'oa' mainly sounds /oʊ/:

goat /ɡoʊt/

coach /koʊtʃ/

coat /koʊtʃ/

'oo' also sounds /ɑː/:

roar /rɔːr/

board /bɔːrd/

Sometimes, 'oa' sounds /ɑː/:

broad /brɑːd/

abroad /əˈbrɑːd/

oe

'oe' sounds /oʊ/:

doe /doʊ/

hoe /hoʊ/

toe /toʊ/

'oe' at the end of words sounds /uː/:

shoe /ʃuː/

canoe /kəˈnuː/

Tip

'oe' sounds /ʌ/in the word 'does':

does /dʌz/

'oe' sounds /iː/ in French loanwords:

phoenix /ˈfiː.nɪks/

foetal /ˈfiː.təl/

foetus /ˈfiː.təs/

eo

'eo' sounds /ə/:

sturgeon /ˈstɝː.dʒən/

dungeon /ˈdʌn.dʒən/

pigeon /ˈpɪdʒ.ən/

Tip

'eo' in the word people sounds /i:/:

people /ˈpiːpl/

oi

'oi' sounds /ɔɪ/:

joint /dʒɔɪnt/

coin /kɔɪn/

toilet /ˈtɔɪ.lət/

'oi' also sounds /ə/:

tortoise /ˈtɔː.təs/

porpoise /ˈpɔː.pəs/

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 /oʊ/:

shoulder /ˈʃoʊl.dɚ/

boulder /ˈboʊl.dɚ/

soul /soʊl/

'ou' at the end of words sounds /ə/:

enormous /ɪˈnɔː.məs/

famous /ˈfeɪ.məs/

'ou' also sounds /ʊ/ in the word tour and its combinations:

contour /ˈkɑːn.tʊr/

tour /tʊr/

tourist /ˈtʊr.ɪst/

Tip

'eou' in eous and 'iou' in ious sound /ə/:

outrageous /ˌaʊtˈreɪ.dʒəs/

contagious /kənˈteɪ.dʒəs/

Warning

In the word 'cough', the letters 'ou' sound /ɑː/:

cough /kɑːf/

our

'our' mainly sounds /ɔːr/:

four /fɔːr/

court /kɔːrt/

pour /pɔːr/

ough

'ough' sounds /aʊ/, in other words, 'gh' is silent in these cases:

drought /draʊt/

bough /baʊ/

'ough' sounds /oʊ/ in some words:

although /ɑːlˈðoʊ/

doughnut /ˈdoʊ.nʌt/

'ough' also sounds /ɑː/:

thought /θɑːt/

brought /brɑːt/

sought /sɑːt/

'ough' also sounds /oʊ/ or /ə/ if it is placed at the last syllable:

borough /ˈbɝː.oʊ/

ow

'ow' sounds /oʊ/:

window /ˈwɪn.doʊ/

snow /snoʊ/

bowl /boʊl/

'ow' also sounds /aʊ/:

owl /aʊl/

cow /kaʊ/

town /taʊn/

oy

'oy' sounds /ɔɪ/:

toy /tɔɪ/

oyster /ˈɔɪ.stɚ/

royal /ˈrɔɪ.əl/

or

'or' sounds /ɔːr/:

fork /fɔːrk/

scorpion /ˈskɔːr.pi.ən/

stork /stɔːrk/

'or' also sounds /ɜːr/:

word /wɜːrd/

world /wɜːrld/

work /wɜːrk/

Tip

'ot' at the last syllable of French loanwords sounds /əʊ/:

escargot /ɪˈskɑː.ɡəʊ/

escargot /ɪˈskɑː.ɡəʊ/

The Letter O: Uses

The letter 'o' is used as
The vocative case in titles, before a noun, usually capitalized; for example O Canada or O Lord, save thy people
'Zero' when saying phone numbers, etc. like: My number is six o double three (= 6033)
The symbol for the chemical element oxygen

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