The sound /ey/ mid, front, tense vowel

This vowel is usually stressed, as in these words:
  • famous
  • lately
  • create



However, /ey/ can also be unstressed. In an unstressed syllable, /ey/ is pronounced quickly and softly. This is most common in the last syllable of a word.
  • Sunday
  • dictate
  • graduate

  • "a...(e)" - came, late
  • "ai" - train, wait
  • "a" - age, April
  • "ay" - day, maybe
  • "ey" - they, obey
  • "ea" - great, break
  • "ei" - rein, veil
  • "eigh"/"aigh" - neighbor, weigh, straight
  • "et" (French origin) - crochet, ballet
Grammar Tip:
The sound /ey/ is part of the common suffix “-ate,” when “-ate” is part of a verb. If the verb is more than 2 syllables, the /ey/ in the suffix is unstressed.
  • create
  • indicate
  • complicate
  • communicate
Compare /ey/ with /iy/:

These are both front, tense vowels. However, /ey/ is a mid vowel and /iy/ is a high vowel.

You can hear the difference between /ey/ and /iy/ in these words.
1. A. lake, B. leak
2. A. raid, B. read
3. A. play, B. plea
4. A. raisin, B. reason
5. A. same, B. seem
6. A. fail, B. feel

Now, compare /ey/ with /ɛ/:
/ey/…/ɛ/… /ey/…/ɛ/… /ey/…/ɛ/…

These are both mid, front vowels. However, /ey/ is a tense vowel, and /ɛ/ is a lax vowel. Your tongue should tighten when you pronounce /ey/, but not when you pronounce /ɛ/.
You can hear the difference between /ey/ and /ɛ/ in these words.



Listen and repeat these words:
1. shade
2. hate
3. take
4. haze
5. gave
6. lame
7. rain
8. sail
9. haste
10. mayor
11. tailor
12. relay
13. crazy
14. potato
15. impatient
16. graduate
17. communicate
18. gracious
19. payday
20. radiate 

Now, practice /ey/ in sentences. Say the words first, then the sentences.
1. making - cake - birthday 
I'm making a cake for your birthday.
2. afraid - wake - snake
I'm afraid to wake up a sleeping snake.
3. raining - today - hail
It's raining today, with a chance of hail.
4. mayor - gave - waste
The mayor gave a speech about waste management. 
5. makes - great - relationship
What makes a great relationship?
6. rainy - days - play - games
On rainy days, my family likes to play games.

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

Consonants /d/ and /g/

What we understand will appear here!
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