W Sound

w (wow, quit, where)

English Pronunciation, Lesson 21

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The W sound (IPA symbol: w) can be found in American English words such as woman, belowwin, why, where, quick, and quiet, and one.

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

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

How to Pronounce the W Sound

The W sound is a voiced sound. That means that the vocal cords vibrate when you make that sound. In the English language, we use many voiced sounds.
w sound
To correctly pronounce the W sound, form your lips into a small, tight circle. It is important to hold your lips correctly. Imagine whistling or blowing out a candle. Use the same shape to form the letter W.

Your jaw should be mostly closed to make the sound, but your teeth should not touch.

In this video from Rachel's English, Rachel instructs her friend how to correctly pronounce the W sound in American English. Pay attention as she points out common mistakes learners might make when forming this sound.

Let's Practice

You should practice the W sound in front of a mirror to make sure you are holding your lips correctly. This is not a natural sound for many non-native speakers to make.

There are three common ways to make the W sound: w, wh, and qu.

W = /w/:

The most common way to spell the W sound is with a W. The W can be at the beginning, middle, or end of a word.

1) wow

2) woman

3) wife

4) now

5) flower

6) know

7) sweet

8) win

9) rewind

10) row

11) flow

12) towel

13) winter

Wh = /w/:

The W sound is also sometimes spelled with the letters WH. 

1) why

2) where

3) when

4) while

5) what

6) white

Important note: Not all WH words are pronounced as a W sound. When the WH is followed by the OO sound or the Long O sound, it is usually pronounced as an H only (like in the words her and him).

Examples: (say these words with an H sound.)

1) who (WH + OO)
2) whom (WH + OO)
3) whole (WH + Long O)

Qu = /kw/:

The qu spelling is a K sound followed by a W sound. 

1) quit

2) quick

3) quite

4) quiet

5) queen

Here two more words that have the W sound that do not follow the spelling rules above. The W sound is in bold print.

1) one

2) choir

Listen carefully!
The W sound is very similar to the OO sound in English. They sound almost the same! The only difference is that the lips are a little more closed when forming the W sound.
Let's practice the W sound and OO sound side-by-side.

W sound OO sound
won moon
quick noon
now flu
flower rude
why balloon

Now say these sentences out loud (the W sounds are bold):

1) Quick! Where is my wife?

2) I saw the queen in the winter.

3) We will win now.

4) Will the woman be quiet?

5) Now, what is that white flower?

7) William won the quick race.

8) I know he quit the choir.

9) Where is the wonderful queen?

10) Why doesn't this one taste sweet?

Have you finished them all! Great job! Continue to practice the W sound in front of a mirror to make sure you are doing it correctly. 

great job

Well done! You have completed this lesson.

Let's move on...

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)

Lesson 32: T and TT Sounds (true T sound, D sound, stop sound, silent T)

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