Let’s move on down the alphabet, make way for the letter O. Got it? Oh yes.

As with all vowels letter O has several pronunciations. Today we’ll look at short /ɒ/ as in clock or orange, and long /əʊ/ as in go and old.

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Before we go any further STAP! Sorry I mean STOP! The pronunciation of the letter O is one of the biggest differences you’ll find between British English accents and American accents. If you’re into that kind of thing the phoneme symbols tell you a lot,

Here’s a quick guide:

clock      UK /klɒk/    US / klɑːk/

orange   UK/ɒrɪnʤ/ US/ɔːrɪnʤ/

go          UK /gəʊ/    US/goʊ/

old         UK /əʊld/  US /oʊld/

You can see in British English orange and clock have the same O sound, but in US pronunciation they are different. In go and old US English has a sound that doesn’t exist in UK English /oʊ/. Don’t forget this blog is about British English sounds.

________Pull out phonemic section ends____________

How to pronounce long O

With the long O you’re actually saying the name of the Letter O. Oh. Make your lips into a nice round O shape, tongue slightly down.

How to pronounce short O

Make a long O sound and then relax your mouth, corners of your mouth down, lips just slightly apart.

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Oh! Wait until you read the next section!


This is the hardest to define, and really makes you wonder how English can even survive, so ridiculous are its spelling rules. So the rules for spelling with letter O are: There are no rules. Literally, if you see a letter O it could be pronounced long or short, or in a completely different way altogether.  Have a look at this:

How to spell long O /əʊ/

oak, obey, ocean, Olympic, open, owe, ozone

bone, broke, hole, goal, throat, load, slow, own, elbow, blow, go, sold, toe, aloe, shoulder, although, bureau, folk, sew, yeoman.

Can be spelt O_E, OA, OW, O, OE, OU, OUGH, EAU, OL, EW or EO.

Listen to Long O words here:

How to spell short O /ɒ/

object, obvious, occupation, October, odd, off, olive, on, opera, oxygen

want, quality, swallow, because, gone, cough, knowledge

Can be spelt O,  A (After w or qu), AU, O_E, OU, OW

Listen to short O here:

BUT all of these spellings can be pronounced differently too. Folk sounds like a long O but wolf doesn’t. Knowledge has a short O but know doesn’t. The Os in women and woman have different sounds and neither is a long or short O.


Here are some words that start with letter O but don’t have either the long or short O sounds. Do you know what sounds they do have?

occasionally, o’clock, offend, oil, oink, one, or, order, original, other, out,  owl, oyster.

Listen to these words here:

Quiz Time

Do these words have a long or short O?

How did you do? Listen to the quiz words here:

In the future I’ll look at more O sounds as well as Double O. Wish me luck!





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