In the English language, the vowels are a, e, i, o, u, and sometimes y. They can be pronounced with either a long sound or a short sound. Some short vowels are marked with a breve. The breve looks like a wide “u” and is placed directly above the short vowel.

One Vowel

If there is only one vowel in a single syllable or a monosyllabic word, that vowel is short. The exception to this rule is a vowel that is not followed by a consonant.

If the word you are checking has one syllable, look at the whole word. For instance, the word “zip” has one syllable and the vowel is “i.” If the word has two or more syllables, isolate the syllable containing the vowel of interest. For instance, the word “unzip” has two syllables. If you are interested in the sound of the “i,” isolate the “zip” syllable. First check to see whether it is the only vowel in the syllable. If so, check to see if there is a consonant following the vowel. If it is the only vowel and there is a consonant following it, it is short. In the case of “zip,” the “i” is short. If it is not followed by a consonant, such as “no” or “he,” the vowel is long.

Two vowels

If there are two vowels in a single syllable or a monosyllabic word, the first vowel may become long.

Other vowels in a word can cause a vowel to be long, rather than short. For instance, the “o” in “hop” is short, while the “o” in “hope” is long. The “i” in “bit” is short, while the “i” in “biting” is long. You can think of the second example in terms of syllables. If you break the word “biting” into syllables, you will get “bi” and “ting.” The “i” in the first syllable is not followed by a vowel and therefore is long.

Two Consonants

If the vowel is followed by two consonants, even if they are followed by another vowel, the first vowel will be short.

For instance, the “i” in “riping” is long, but the “i” in “ripping” is short. The two consonants act to isolate the first vowel from the effect of the second vowel. You can also examine the syllables in these worlds. Isolate the syllables of “riping” into “ri” and “ping.” The first vowel does not have a consonant after it, making it long. The second word “ripping,” however, would be split into “rip” and “ping.” The consonant following the “i” in the first syllable makes it short.