The sound /uw/ high, back, tense, round vowel




  • "u" - mute, humid 
  • "ui" – juice, fruit
  • "oo" - spoon, food
  • “ou” – group, you
  • “ue” – blue, true
  • "ew" - few, pewter
  • “o” – who, move
  • "eu" - neutral, feud
  • "oe" (not common) - shoe, canoe

This vowel is usually stressed, as in these words:
  • neutral
  • beautiful
  • confuse
However, /uw/ can also be unstressed. In an unstressed syllable, /uw/ is pronounced quickly and softly.
  • curfew
  • virtue
  • unique
Note: In English, some words have a /y/ sound before /uw/. This sound is “invisible” – it’s not shown in spelling. 
If the /uw/ is spelled “u,” “eu,” "eau," or “ew,” there is usually an invisible /y/, unless the syllable begins with “j”, “r”, or "ch."

  • Words with invisible /y/:


  • confuse
  • menu
  • music
  • unity
Words without invisible /y/:

  • juice
  • rude
  • chew
  • soon
For other words, there may be variation in whether speakers pronounce an invisible /y/ before /uw/. For example, invisible /y/ is usually pronounced after the "n" in "menu" but may or may not be pronounced after the /n/ in "newspaper" or "nutrition." This variation occurs when /uw/ is spelled "u," "eu," "eau," or "ew" and comes after "t," "d," "s," "x," "l," or "n."
Compare /uw/ and /ʊ/:

These are both high, back vowels. However, /uw/ is a tense vowel and /ʊ/ is a lax vowel. To pronounce /uw/, your tongue must be tense (tight).

You can hear the difference between /uw/ and /ʊ/ in these words.
1. A. stewed, B. stood
2. A. duel, B. dull
3. A. suit, B. soot
4. A. nuke, B. nook
5. A. wooed, B. would
6. A. pooling, B. pulling

Now, compare /uw/ and /ow/:

These are both back, tense vowels. However, /uw/ is a high vowel and /ow/ is a mid vowel.

You can hear the difference between /uw/ and /ow/ in these words.
1. A. sue, B. so
2. A. hoop, B. hope
3. A. pool, B. pole
4. A. lose, B. lows
5. A. tune, B. tone
6. A. ruler, B. roller
Listen and repeat these words. (Words with invisible-/y/ are marked with *.)
1. move
2. fruit
3. *few
4. room
5. soon
6. juice
7. cool
8. duty
9. *music
10. *humid
11. *confuse
12. assume
13. *beautiful
14. *newspaper
15. *unique
16. *reduce
17. *computer
18. *interview
19. *communicate
20. *accumulation

Now, practice /uw/ in sentences. Say the words first, then the sentences.
1. interview – new – Tuesday
I have an interview for a new job on Tuesday.
2. blueberries – fruit – juice
We need blueberries for the fruit juice.
3. beautiful - truly - unique
Your art is beautiful and truly unique.
4. confused – rules – amusement
I’m confused by the rules at the amusement park.
5. blue – shoes – cute
Those blue shoes are really cute.
6. June – too – humid
The weather in June is too humid.

To practice with different varieties of English, choose another native English speaker by clicking one of the links below:

Consonants /d/ and /g/

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