Diphthong
(a combination of two vowel sounds)

English Pronunciation, Lesson 17

Previous Lesson | List of Lessons | Next Lesson


A diphthong is a speech sound that begins with one vowel sound and changes to another vowel sound in the same syllable. Diphthongs are very common in English, but vary greatly from region to region.

Click Here for Step-by-Step Rules, Stories and Exercises to Practice All English Tenses

Click Here to get the English Short Stories Book and Workbook


Click Here for the American Accent Audio Course.

In English, there are two types of vowel sounds: monophthongs and diphthongs.

A monophthong is a vowel with a single sound, such as the long E sound in "meet" and the UH sound (short U) in "rust." Monophthongs make one single vowel sound in a syllable. You do not have to change the shape of your mouth while saying the vowel sound.

A diphthong is a more complex vowel sound.

The word diphthong comes from the Latin word "diphthongus" and the Greek word "diphthongos," meaning "having two sounds."

Diphthongs begin with one vowel sound and change to another vowel sound in the same syllable. Your mouth position changes slightly through the vowel sound.

Diphthongs are often (but not always) made when two vowels are next to each other in the same syllable.

Try saying these words: (the diphthongs are in red)
  • brown

  • fair

  • share

  • slow

  • guy

  • boy

  • ouch

  • away

  • eye

Watch this short video to learn more about diphthongs and the word origin.




Here is another helpful video about pronouncing one specific diphthong.



Have you watched them? Good! Let's practice...

man speaking

It is hard to make a complete list diphthongs because the sounds can vary greatly by accent and dialect. A dialect is a form of a language that is spoken in a certain area. In addition to the basic sounds of the American English alphabet, pronunciation of words can vary from dialect to dialect.

There are eight major identified dialects in North America and Canada. That's a lot of different ways of pronouncing words!

Pronunciations of certain vowel sounds are also different among various forms of English (British, American, Australian). Pronunciations in American English will not always be the same as pronunciations in other forms of English.

If you are unsure how to pronounce a specific word, use an online dictionary that has pronunciations in audio form. This will give you the most common pronunciation of a word.

In this article, we will cover some of the most common diphthongs found in American English.


// (Long A sound)

This diphthong is similar to the long A sound. It is pronounced as a long A sound sliding into a long E sound.

Some dialects pronounce the long A sound as one single sound (like in bake and late). Others pronounce it as two vowel sounds. It really depends on where you live. People with southern accents (from the south part of the United States) will stretch out the diphthong more.

Try saying these words with two vowel sounds: (the diphthong is in red)
  • day

  • say

  • may

  • away

  • pay

  • lay

  • play

  • eight

//

This diphthong is pronounced as a long I sound sliding into a long E sound.

Again, this sound can vary from dialect to dialect. Some dialects pronounce the long I sound in the following words as one single sound. Some dialects pronounce the vowel sound more like the "AH" sound you would here in "ball". Others pronounce it as two vowel sounds.

Try saying these words with two vowel sounds: (the diphthong is in red)

  • sky

  • try

  • fry

  • die

  • cry

  • tie

  • why

  • eye

/ɔɪ/

This diphthong is pronounced as a long O sound that quickly slides into a long E sound.

Try saying these words: (the diphthong is in red)

  • boy

  • toy

  • annoy

  • enjoy

  • ploy

  • soil

  • foil

  • boil

/ɪə/

This diphthong is pronounced as a long E sound sliding into an Ur sound

Try saying these words: (the diphthong is in red)

  • pier

  • hear

  • steer

  • clear

  • fear

  • deer

  • ear

//

This diphthong is pronounced as a long A sound sliding into an Ur sound

Try saying these words: (the diphthong is in red)

  • bear

  • hair

  • fair

  • stairs

  • pair

  • wear

  • where


//

This diphthong is pronounced as a short A sound sliding into an "oo" sound

Try saying these words: (the diphthong is in red)

  • brown

  • cow

  • how

  • frown

  • now

  • wow


/oʊ/

This diphthong is often just pronounced as a single long O sound. As a diphthong, it has a long O sound sliding into an "oo" sound

Try saying these words using the two vowel sounds: (the diphthong is in red)

  • yellow

  • coat

  • float

  • though

  • toe

  • no

  • low

  • although

Have you finished them all? Great job! Keep up the good work!

Click Here for the American Accent Audio Course. .

Let's move on...

Your next lesson: Lesson 18, P and B sounds (pull, bull)

List of Lessons

Lesson 01: International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA)

Lesson 02: Word Stress and Syllables

Lesson 03: Long E sound (meet, see)

Lesson 04: Short I Sound (sit, hit)

Lesson 05: UH Sound (put, foot)

Lesson 06: OO Sound (moon, blue)

Lesson 07: Short E sound (pen, bed)

Lesson 08: Schwa Sound (the, about)

Lesson 09: UR Sound (turn, learn)

Lesson 10: OH Sound (four, store)

Lesson 11: Short A Sound (cat, fat)

Lesson 12: UH Sound (but, luck)

Lesson 13: Soft A Sound (arm, father)

Lesson 14: Long O Sound (boat, know)

Lesson 15: Long A Sound (say, pain, make)

Lesson 16: Short O Sound (not, off, socks)

Lesson 17: Diphthong (a combination of two vowel sounds)

Lesson 18: P Sound (cup, punch, pull) and B sound (cub, bunch, bull)

Lesson 19: The Nasal Sounds (M, N, NG)

Lesson 20: F Sound (four, lift, graph, tough) and V Sound (love, knives, grave, vine)

Lesson 21: W Sound (wow, quit, where)

Lesson 22: R Sound (red, sorry, write)

Lesson 23: H Sound (he, behind, who)

Lesson 24: T Sound (top, it, later) and D Sound (do, had, made)

Lesson 25: S Sound (sit, box, cats) and Z Sound (zip, buzz, boys)

Lesson 26: K Sound (kid, talk, black) and G Sound (go, big, dog)

Lesson 27: L Sound: Light L & Dark L (tall, like, English)

Lesson 28: Y Consonant Sound (yes, you, beyond)

Lesson 29: CH Sound (China, century, watch) and J Sound (Germany, educate , judge)

Lesson 30: TH Consonant Sounds – voiced TH sound (the, father, them) and voiceless (unvoiced) TH sound (think, birthday, south)

Lesson 31: SH (shop, chef, special) and ZH (usual, massage, Asia)

Learn English Video Section


Get Vocabulary, Grammar and Teaching Tips, Site Updates and Special Offers Directly to Your Mailbox

Join now and get a special bonus:

First 2 chapters of the English Short Stories Book and Workbook.

Are you a teacher or a student?

* We respect your email privacy and you can unsubscribe at any time.