140: The 'oo' spelling of the words 'foot' and 'soon'

The oo sound is more common, but the other u sound is possible.


Hi again, and welcome back to Seattle Learning Academy's American English pronunciation podcast. My name is Mandy, and this is our 140th episode.

I talked a bit about the other u sound in our last podcast about the word sure. The other u sounds like (other u) and is the vowel sound in the word put. Can you hear it? (Other u), put.

The other u is tricky because it doesn't have any vowel spelling of its own. It can obviously be spelled u, as in the word put, but it can also be spelled oo as in the word foot. Can you hear the rhyme between put and foot, put, foot.

The more common pronunciation for the oo spelling is the oo sound, as in the word soon. The word shoot (s-h-o-o-t) is also pronounced with the oo sound. Notice that the word shoot does not rhyme with the word foot, shoot, foot.

Let's talk a little bit about how these two sounds are different. The oo sound is usually easier to start with because it is a more common sound. Listen to the sound: (oo sound). The major characteristic of this sound is that my lips are brought into a small circle. In addition, the back of the tongue raised to a high position and sides of the tongue touch the top teeth at the back of the mouth. Listen to the sound again: (oo sound).

The other u sound, (other u), has relaxed lips. The inside of the mouth is similar to the oo sound. My tongue relaxes a little more and the back of the tongue drops some, but those details are really minor compared with the drastically different shape of my lips. Most of my students learn to create a perfect other u sound simply by staring with the oo sound, and then relaxing the lips.

Listen to both sounds, I'll say the oo sound first, then the other u sound (oo sound, other u, oo sound, other u).

So, let's get back to the oo spelling for these sounds. Between these two pronunciations (other u) and (oo sound), the oo sound is much more common.

I'm going to say a word spelled oo, and I want you to try to tell if it's the oo sound or the other u sound. Ready?




Those were:


tooth, oo sound
cook, other u
good, other u
food, oo sound
school, oo sound


How did you do? Pretty good?

Here's a little more practice. I'm going to say the five most frequently used words spelled oo for each pronunciation. I am going to say the words pronounced with the oo sound first:




And here are the top five other u words:




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Thanks for listening.