The sound /ow/ mid, back, tense, rounded vowel




  • "o" - both, phone
  • "oa" - coat, toast
  • "ow" - bowl, flow
  • "oe" - toe, goes
  • "ough" - although, dough
  • "ou" - soul, shoulder
The sound /ow/ is usually stressed, as in these words:
  • clothing
  • mostly
  • below
However, /ow/ can also be unstressed. In an unstressed syllable, /ow/ is pronounced quickly and softly.
  • almost
  • yellow
  • okay

Compare /ow/ with /ɔ/:

These are both mid, back, rounded vowels. However, /ow/ is a tense vowel and /ɔ/ is a lax vowel, When you pronounce /ow/, your tongue should be tightened.

You can hear the difference between /ow/ and /ɔ/ in these words.
1. A. flow, B. flaw
2. A. coat, B. caught
3. A. close, B. clause
4. A. loan, B. lawn
5. A. coal, B. call
6. A. bowling, B. bawling

Now, compare /ow/ and /uw/:

These are both back, tense, rounded vowels. However, /ow/ is a mid vowel, and /uw/ is a high vowel. When you pronounce /ow/, your tongue should be in the middle of your mouth, not raised.

You can hear the difference between /ow/ and /uw/ in these words.
1. A. no, B. new
2. A. road, B. rude
3. A. moan, B. moon
4. A. pole, B. pool
5. A. sower, B. sewer
6. A. roller, B. ruler.
Listen and repeat these words:
1. low
2. hope
3. close
4. coat
5. phone
6. bowl
7. drove
8. growth
9. lower
10. notebook
11. below
12, also
13. piano
14. video 
15. workload
16. pothole
17. overlook
18. rowboat
19. photograph
20. promotional

Now, practice /ow/ in sentences:
1. hope - won't - notice
I hope my mom won't notice the mess.
2. coal - old - stoves
Coal was once used in old stoves.
3. okay - show - photos
Is it okay if I show my brother your photos?
4. drove - slowly - potholes
I drove slowly to avoid potholes.
5. potatoes - bowl - lower
The potatoes are in the bowl on the lower shelf.
6. slow - growth - voter
There has been a slow growth in voter turnout.

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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