39: quit, quite, and quiet

Learn to correctly say these three similar-sounding words.


Hi everyone, and welcome back to Seattle Learning Academy's American English Pronunciation Podcast. My name is Mandy, and this is our 39th episode. There are only two more podcasts until our first video podcast. I'm getting really excited. Don't worry if you don't have an MP3 player that doesn't show video, I'll also upload each show as audio, so you can listen the same as always, if you want to.

I want to thank ollie22 from the forums, for suggesting that I continue to do shows about similar sounding words. You're right, even simple words can cause trouble for pronunciation.

So, for today, I've chosen three very similar words: quit, quite, and quiet. The first thing I want to note is that the letter u, when it is part of the "qu" spelling, is not treated as a vowel for pronunciation purposes. Q + U is treated as the k sound plus w sound.

Let's look first at quit q-u-i-t, and quite q-u-i-t-e. The only difference in spelling is the addition of the e at the end of quite. It is that e, that silent e, that causes quite to be said with a long i. Remember, the long i sounds like (long i). Quite. On the forums, ShortHair started a thread about long and short vowel spellings. If you're not sure what I mean about the silent e, go to the forums and check out that post.

In the word quit, q-u-i-t, because the letter i is acting like a single vowel (if we consider the u to be part of the q-u sound) is going to sound like a short i. Remember, short i sounds like (short i) Listen for that sound in quit. Quit.

So, the difference between quite and quit is a long i (long i) and a short i (short i).

Quiet q-u-i-e-t, unfortunately, does not follow any nice pronunciation rules. There are two things to remember with this word. First, and most importantly, quiet is a 2-syllable word, stressed on the first syllable. QUI-et. Secondly, the word quiet is pronounced with two vowel sounds next to each other. I hope you remember from last week that we need to add a y sound or a w sound between the vowel sounds to make each sound nice and clear.

Quiet gets a tiny y sound added. Listen closely. Qui(y)et. I wish dictionaries showed this additional sound, but most dictionaries don't get to that level of detail. Native speakers do it without knowing it, and therefore seldom teach non-native speakers this trick to clear adjacent vowels. That second syllable of quiet is a schwa, so it doesn't get much sound, but it is there.

Since quiet and quite both have a long i, if you aren't careful with adding the schwa sound to quiet, quiet and quite sound very much the same.

I'm going to say all three words, then I'm going to say them again so you can repeat after me.


quit, quite, quiet


Now, repeat each word after me:




There you go. That's today's short little show; I hope you enjoyed it.

Don't forget, January 1, 2009 will be the first video podcast! And check out the forums for some interesting discussions going on there. Don't be shy about your grammar or level of English; post any questions you might have, as well.

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

Thanks for listening!