Pure vowel 4: /o/

Now, we move on to the vowel /o/.

How it sounds

This is the same sound that we have in the “o” of “orange”:

Mouth position

The lips are rounded (like the shape of the letter “o”), and the tongue is brought further back into the mouth, about mid-way up.


What to avoid

English speakers (especially British English) pronounce this sound as a “diphthong” – two pure vowel sounds together. British English speakers will pronounce the letter “o” as the “ough” in “though” (the phonemic symbol for this is /əu/):


Listen to this slowed down recording of that vowel sound, and see if you can identify the two vowel sounds which form this “diphthong”:


This is quite different from the pure vowel sound in Spanish, and is one of the biggest markers of an English accent speaking Spanish! The English /əu/ sound does not exist in Spanish, so we need to ensure that we are always using the pure vowel sound. Listen to these examples to illustrate this point:









Unstressed “o” in English (meaning that the emphasis of the word falls on another syllable – more on this later in the course) is often pronounced with the “schwah” sound:


Again, this sound does not exist in Spanish, so we need to avoid it at all costs! Compare the English pronunciation to the Spanish pronunciation in these words.





The “o” sound can be realised in different ways in English, but Spanish uses the pure vowel “o” in all syllables where it occurs.


Phoneme /o/ exercises