There are two vowel sounds that are similar to Long-vowels because they have two parts. However, these two vowels do not have an alphabet letter to represent them, so I use the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) symbols for these two sounds. They are:
This is the sound in words such as: house / out / now / flower. This sound is usually spelled with the letters “OU” or “OW”, BUT be careful…
not every word with “OU” has this sound. The vowel pair “OU” has many different pronunciations (this is explained in OU – Oh no!).
not every word with “OW” has this sound. Some words with “OW” have a Long-O sound, such as “slow” or “own”.
This sound is in words such as: boy / oyster / oil / choice. This vowel is spelled with either “OI” or “OY”.
These two vowels are not usually difficult for students to pronounce. In fact, I have never seen a situation where someone has had difficulty communicating clearly in English due to errors with these two vowels.
There is just one thing to keep in mind about pronouncing them. Since these vowels — as well as the regular Long-vowels — have two parts, the tongue needs to be active. So, to pronounce them well, the tongue needs to move or slide, in order to pronounce both parts, and to sound clear and natural.
There is no letter “OO” in the English alphabet, but Long-OO and Short-oo are part of the vowel system.
Short-oo is a unique vowel sound that is not represented by any other vowel letter. This vowel is explained in “Short-oo? What’s that?”
Long-OO does not have its own sound. It uses the Long-U-2 sound. Long-OO is really more of a “helper” to Long-U — it’s an alternate way to spell the Long-U-2 sound. Long-OO takes the place of the letter “U” in words that need a Long-U-2 instead of Long-U-1. (see Long-U: 1 or 2?). Here are some examples,
fool — If we spelled this word with a “U”, the “F” would trigger a Long-U-1, and the word would end up sounding like the word “fuel”. So, in order to have a Long-U-2 sound in “fool”, the “OO” is used instead of a “U”.
boot — If this word had a “U” it would be “bute” — because a “B” also requires Long-U-1. So again, the “OO” helps out to keep a Long-U-2 sound.
coo — This word would sound like “cue”, if it had a “U” instead of “OO”.
If you see an [-e] at the end of a word with “OO” you know for sure that it is Long-OO, as in the words “soothe”, “goose” and “snooze”.
However, if you see a word that does not have an [-e] at the end, it could have either sound. Some have Long-OO, such as “food”, “school” and “moon”. Some have Short-oo, such as “hook”, “wool” and “good”.