Various vowel spellings can cause non-native English speakers to assume that words rhyme when they actually do not. Learn which words and spellings are likely to cause confusion


Hi again, and welcome back to Seattle Learning Academy's American English pronunciation podcast. My name is Mandy and this is our 86th podcast, and our 13th video podcast.

Today's episode is about non-rhyming words, specifically about words you would expect to rhyme, but do not. Hearing rhymes is important because it forces you to listen for exact sound matches. Specifically, words rhyme when they their sounds are the same from the last stressed vowel sound to the end of the word. In single-syllable words it's easy to find rhymes.Catsathat, and fat all rhyme.

Some examples of two-syllable rhyming words are evernever, and lever.

For longer words, suffixes can help us find rhymes. The words affectionperfection, andprotection all rhyme, and they are all three syllables in length.

All of the examples I just talked about had the same spelling on the rhyming portion of the word. Most people have an easier time identifying words as rhyming when the spelling is the same. However, we can learn a lot about words that rhyme that aren't spelled the same. The words practice and cactus rhyme, even though practice ends in t-i-c-e, and cactus ends in t-u-s.

The words heard (herd), word, and bird all rhyme, even though their vowels are all different. We can turn this around and say, not only can rhyming words be spelled differently, but non-rhyming words can be spelled the same.

Some non-rhyming words are better known to non-native speakers. These include words with the gh spelling. The words enoughcoughthough, and through all end in ough, but none of them rhyme. Since there really is no standard ough pronunciation, students expect to need to learn the word's pronunciations individually.

However, for many sounds in English, especially vowel sounds, it's easy to get caught on a single pronunciation for a spelling. To best explain this, let's look at some unexpected non-rhyming words.

For example, the words good and food do not rhyme. Good has the other u sound /ʊ/, and food, has the oo sound /u/Goodfood.

Most, m-o-s-t, and cost, c-o-s-t, don't rhyme. The letter o in most is a long o sound /oʊ/; the letter o in cost is an aw sound /ɔ/. Listen to those words again:


The word what does not rhyme with the word thatWhat, w-h-a-t, rhymes with cut, c-u-t. And the word cut doesn't rhyme with put, p-u-t. The words cut and what are pronounced with a short u sound /ʌ/, and put is pronounced with the other u sound /ʊ/. On the other hand, put and foot, do rhyme. But foot and boot do not.

The word stove, s-t-o-v-e, move, m-o-v-e, and love, l-o-v-e don't rhyme, even though they all are spelled -ove. According to the most common spelling/pronunciation pattern, -ove should be pronounced -ove, and all the words should rhyme with stove. But they don't. Listen to the words again.


To make it worse, the word d-o-v-e has two pronunciations, dove (noun) and dove (verb). A dove is a lovely symbol of peace. Dove rhymes with loveDove is the simple past of to dive, and dove rhymes with stove.

Here is one last example, this time with a-i-d spellings. Said, s-a-i-d, doesn't rhyme withpaid, p-a-i-d; it rhymes with bed, b-e-d. Saidbed. And plaid, p-l-a-i-d, doesn't rhyme withpaid either, it rhymes with sadPlaidsad. Listen to those three words for comparison.


None of those rhyme.

These unexpected spellings are why the new, updated, and free sound lessons on Pronuncian include all of the common spellings as well as non-phonetic words. It's important to know both. Learn the common spellings, but expect exceptions. Learn to identify the sounds, then learn to trust your ear. When you know you can identify sounds, then you can gain confidence in your own speech!

I'll link to all the sounds mentioned in this show, in the transcripts. You can find the free transcripts by visiting I'll also link to a quiz to help you check yourself regarding rhyming and non-rhyming words. You need to have a Pronuncian subscription to access the Pronuncian quizzes. It costs as little as $15 per month with a six-month subscription. (NOTE: As of April, 2016, no longer offers subscriptions!)

Also, don't forget, you can be notified when we add new content to Pronuncian by following us on Twitter. Our username is just Pronuncian.

That's all for today. Thank you for listening everyone.

This has been a Seattle Learning Academy digital publication. SLA is where the world comes to learn.