Distinguishing between Short-i and Long-E is difficult for many students (the difference is explained in “This or These?”), but it’s a good idea to be extra careful with this vowel distinction — there are several frequently used words of English with the Short-i sound that could be confused with similar sounding words with Long-E. The words below are from the list of The 150 Most Frequently Used Words of English.
Now remember, the key to pronouncing Short-i correctly is to relax your tongue.
So, if you don’t relax your tongue then…
is — sounds like “ease”
it — sounds like “eat”
its — sounds like “eats”
his — sounds like “he’s”
him — sounds like “heme” (this is a scientific word that most people don’t know)
will — sounds like “wheel”
did — sounds like “deed”
still — sounds like “steal”/”steel”
Also, the word “six” is used often, and can be confused with the word “seeks”.
So, here’s a sentence that uses some of these words together: “Will it still work?”
But, without saying Short-i correctly, this sentence could sound like: “Wheel eat steal work?”
Or “Is it at 6:00?” could sound like “Ease eat at seeks?” (That sounds kind of crazy!)
There are some frequent words with the Short-i sound that do not have a corresponding word with Long-E: in / with / if / think / which. Even though these words would not be confused with a similar-sounding word, it still makes it harder for people to understand you if accidentally say them with a Long-E sound. So it is worth it to be careful with Short-i (not: eat ease worth eat to be careful weeth Short-i)!