210: '-ue' ending (unique, avenue, and rescue)

Is it silent, pronounced as 'long u' or 'oo sound'?

Transcript

Hi again, and welcome back to Seattle Learning Academy's American English pronunciation podcast. My name is Amanda, and this is our 210th episode.

Today I'm going to talk about words that end in the letters -ue. I'm talking about words like unique, avenue, and rescue. You might not have noticed it, but each of those words had a different pronunciation for the -ue. In the word unique, the -ue was silent. In the word avenue, the -ue was pronounced as the oo sound (oo sound), like in the word soon. In the word rescue, the -ue was pronounced as the long u sound (long u), like in the word cute.

(Visit the Introduction to Long Vowels and Introduction to Other Vowels lessons for more information.)

Those words again were unique, avenue, and rescue. So we have three words, and three different pronunciations. Is there a pattern? Well, sort of.

Let's begin with the pattern for when the -ue is silent. In addition to the word unique, it is also silent in the following words. See if you can notice the pattern:

antique
technique
boutique
grotesque
fatigue
colleague
vogue
league

What do all those words have in common? If you noticed that all of them are spelled either -que or -gue, you are correct! This pattern works quite well, too. There is only one very common word that is spelled -gue that includes a vowel sound at the end of the word. That word is argue. What is the final sound in the word argue? It's the long u sound (long u).

Let's use this exception word, argue to transition into other words with the -ue ending pronounced as a long u sound. In case you don't remember, the long u sounds like a y sound plus the oo sound. Put those together, and we get (long u).

Besides argue, other words that are spelled with -ue at the end and sound like (long u) are the following:

barbecue
continue
rescue
value
venue

So that's two of the three -ue ending pronunciation patterns. One was silent, the next was the long u. Do you remember the third pattern? The third pattern is the oo sound. The oo sound is very similar to the long u sound, but does not include that initial y sound. The oo sound is pronounced as (oo sound).

The words that end in -ue that are pronounced with the oo sound in American English include the following. Listen closely:

avenue
pursue
revenue
issue
statue
tissue
virtue

I wish I could say there is a good pattern for knowing which word are pronounced with the long u sound and which are pronounced with the oo sound, but unfortunately, there just isn't one. For that reason you might be best to memorize which words are pronounced which way.

To help you hear the difference between the (long u) sound in rescue and the (oo sound) in issue, let's try a little listening quiz. I'll say a word and you decide if it's pronounced with the long u or oo sound. Ready?

value (value is pronounced long u: value)
venue (venue is also pronounced long u: venue)
revenue (revenue is pronounced with the oo sound: revenue. Listen to the difference between venue and revenue: venue, revenue.)
virtue (virtue is pronounced with the oo sound: virtue)
continue (continue is pronounced long u: continue)

How did you do? I hope that wasn't too hard. Are you ready for some listen and repeat practice? I'll say a word and leave time for you to repeat it after me. I'll start with the words that have a silent -ue:

unique
antique
technique
grotesque
fatigue
colleague
vogue
league

Now the words ending in the long u sound:

barbecue
continue
rescue
value
venue

And finally, the words ending in the oo sound:

avenue
issue
pursue
revenue
statue
tissue
virtue

That's all for today, everyone. This has been a Seattle Learning Academy digital publication. Seattle Learning Academy is where the world comes to learn.

Thanks for listening. Bye-bye.