Ask a Teacher: How to Say the Letter 'I'

2018-12-22

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1
  • In some languages, you can look at a written word and know almost immediately how to say it.
  • 2
  • You can also hear a word and know exactly how to write it down.
  • 3
  • These are properties of phonetic languages. But English is not a phonetic language.
  • 4
  • In English, often the same letter or group of letters can be said in different ways.
  • 5
  • Our question this week comes from Virginie in France.
  • 6
  • Hello! It's always a little bit hard for me to get the right pronunciation of the letter -i in a word.
  • 7
  • Is it pronounced "I" or "e"? How do I know when to say one or the other? - Virginie
  • 8
  • Hello, Virginie.
  • 9
  • This may come as a surprise, but the letter -i can have more than one sound.
  • 10
  • In fact, it can be pronounced six ways in American English alone!
  • 11
  • (ɪ) as in kick and sit
  • 12
  • (aɪ) as in mine and time
  • 13
  • (i:) as in junior and lenient
  • 14
  • (i) as in regime and vaccine
  • 15
  • (Ə) as in audible and permissible
  • 16
  • And (ae) as in timbre
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  • But do not worry! There are a few things that can make things easier:
  • 18
  • Although English is not a phonetic language, there are some spelling patterns, or combinations, whose sounds are more dependable than others.
  • 1
  • In some languages, you can look at a written word and know almost immediately how to say it. You can also hear a word and know exactly how to write it down. These are properties of phonetic languages. But English is not a phonetic language. In English, often the same letter or group of letters can be said in different ways.
  • 2
  • Our question this week comes from Virginie in France.
  • 3
  • Question:
  • 4
  • Hello! It's always a little bit hard for me to get the right pronunciation of the letter -i in a word. Is it pronounced "I" or "e"? How do I know when to say one or the other? - Virginie
  • 5
  • Answer:
  • 6
  • Hello, Virginie.
  • 7
  • This may come as a surprise, but the letter -i can have more than one sound. In fact, it can be pronounced six ways in American English alone!
  • 8
  • (ɪ) as in kick and sit
  • 9
  • (aɪ) as in mine and time
  • 10
  • (i:) as in junior and lenient
  • 11
  • (i) as in regime and vaccine
  • 12
  • (Ə) as in audible and permissible
  • 13
  • And (ae) as in timbre
  • 14
  • But do not worry! There are a few things that can make things easier:
  • 15
  • Although English is not a phonetic language, there are some spelling patterns, or combinations, whose sounds are more dependable than others.
  • 16
  • Listen to the following words and then look at the spelling. The word meanings are not important:
  • 17
  • regime
  • 18
  • gasoline
  • 19
  • routine
  • 20
  • marine
  • 21
  • vaccine
  • 22
  • In words with two or more syllables that end in the letters i-n-e and i-m-e, the -i is often pronounced (i).
  • 23
  • And that's Ask a Teacher.
  • 24
  • I'm Kelly Jean Kelly.
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  • Alice Bryant wrote this report for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
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  • We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section.
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  • _____________________________________________________________
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  • Words in This Story
  • 29
  • pronunciation - n. the act or way of saying something
  • 30
  • audio - adj. of or relating to sound or its reproduction
  • 31
  • click - v. to choose something by pressing a control device
  • 32
  • syllable - n. one or more sounds in a word