Inconsistent English Is A Headache Ep 592

Photograph of a man holding his head in his hands. English words have a range of different pronunciations, making them complex to learn. That's why Adept English is here to help.

📝 Author: Hilary

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💬 2643 words ▪️ ⏳ Reading Time 14 min

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Practise English Pronunciation - Crazy English You Shouldn't Care About (but do)

Inconsistent English is a big headache. You read a word, learn to pronounce it, and you are done. Right? Unfortunately, with English, maybe not. You can have a word with EXACTLY the same spelling, only you say it differently. Crazy, I know, unfortunately you just have to deal with it. Today, in this English lesson, we help you navigate the inconsistency of English pronunciation.

✔Lesson transcript:

No matter what language you are learning, you will run into problems with inconsistent pronunciation. This is especially true in English, which uses many vowel and consonant sounds. English words have a lot of different pronunciations, making them difficult to learn. In this English lesson, we’ll show you the most common inconsistencies and how to pronounce them properly.

Not only do we help you pronounce these tough words, but we also give examples and explanations so that you can understand how to use them correctly. This is just the hundreds of English lessons available to help you learn English fluency.

Unfortunately, this is something we just have to deal with when learning English. Adept English is here to help you pronounce them correctly. No need to be confused when learning English. Find out which inconsistent English words you pronounce differently with us today in this great listen & learn English lesson.

Most Unusual Words:

  • Vowels: Letters that sound without a block in the mouth. Examples: A, E, I, O, U.
  • Consonants: Letters that have a sound block in the mouth. All other letters except vowels.
  • Neighbours: People who live near you.
  • Apron: A cloth you wear over your clothes to keep them clean.
  • Weird: Strange or not usual.
  • Vein: A small tube in the body that carries blood.
  • Aeroplane: A machine that flies in the air and carries people or things.

Most common 2 word phrases:

English Pronunciation5
On Monday3
Say It2
One Of2
You Can2
Going To2

Listen To The Audio Lesson Now

The mp3 audio and pdf transcript for this lesson is now part of the Adept English back catalogue . You can still download and listen to this lesson as part of one of our podcast bundles.

Transcript: Inconsistent English Is A Headache

Hi there. Today in this podcast, I'd like to work a little bit on English pronunciation. There are a number of reasons why English pronunciation is difficult. One of them is accent. Understanding native accents may be difficult because the pronunciation varies. I'm gonna cover that in the next podcast.

Today, what I'd like to look at is some of the difficulties in pronunciation where the written word and its pronunciation - well, there are lots of inconsistencies here. You can have two words where the spelling is absolutely the same, but the pronunciation is inconsistent.

That's what we're going to look at today, particularly with reference to vowels.

Hello, I’m Hilary, and you’re listening to Adept English. We will help you to speak English fluently. All you have to do is listen. So start listening now and find out how it works.

Check out our English Consonant Pronunciation Course

On our website at, you may have seen that there is a complete course on English Consonant Pronunciation. That's a really good one if you want to polish your English pronunciation and make sure that you are getting words right.

What's a consonant and what's a vowel? Well, the English alphabet has 26 letters. The vowels are A, E, I, O, and U. All the rest of them are consonants. So our Adept English Pronunciation Course helps you with the consonants. Today I'm going to work a little bit with vowels.

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Linking spelling with pronunciation - is hard sometimes in English!

So one of the problems with English pronunciation is linking the way a word sounds when you say it, to how it's written, how it's spelt. Sometimes there's great consistency here and sometimes English is really inconsistent. It varies a lot, and that's the problem.

Listen to the following sentence and see how many 'ay' sounds you can hear. That's the long 'a' sound.

On Monday it rained and the sky was grey, so I stayed home. But on Tuesday I put on my apron and baked a cake. Then my neighbours came round for eight o'clock and they stayed late.

So in those sentences, how many 'ay' sounds did you hear? And are they all spelt the same?

Perhaps you could test yourself by trying to write this sentence down as I say it. You could pause the podcast and do that, or you could just try to count how many 'ay' sounds you hear in these sentences. I'll say them again.

On Monday, it rained and the sky was grey, so I stayed home. But on Tuesday I put on my apron and baked a cake. Then my neighbours came around for eight o'clock and they stayed late.

Listening Lessons

How many different ways can you spell the 'ay' sound in English?

Well, I counted 14 'ay' sounds there. Are they all spelled the same? No, of course they're not. Let's go through them. 'On Monday' - so that's an 'ay' sound. So Monday is an AY spelling.' It rained', R A I N E D - so that's an AI spelling. 'And the sky was grey'. Well, G R E Y is the English spelling of that colour. It might have an AY, in fact, it does have an AY if you spell it in US English, but EY is another way of making that 'ay' sound. 'The sky was grey, so I stayed home'. That's the AY spelling for that sound again. 'But on Tuesday', - AY again.....'I put on my apron'. So an 'apron', A P R O N just means a cover, something you put on your clothes so you don't get messy. That's your 'apron'. Well, that's just an 'a', a letter A to make the long 'ay' sound there.

' I put on my apron and baked a cake'. So you may well be familiar with the idea of magic E. In order to make a vowel sound long, you put a letter E on the end of the word. So 'mad', M A D becomes 'made', M A D E.

'I baked a cake'. ' Bake' and 'cake' are two magic E words. That's how they get their long 'ay' sound.

Next bit. 'My neighbours came round for eight o'clock.' So 'neighbours', N E I G H B O U R and 'eight', E I G H T. So E I G H is another way of making an 'ay' sound.

' And they stayed late.' So 'they' is another EY. And 'stayed late' - more magic E type spellings for the 'ay' sound. So the point of these sentences is to show you the inconsistencies. You make the same vowel sound, but it's spelled any number of different ways.

And this can be a problem. It can be a problem when you're reading written English and you want to know how to pronounce a word. And it can be a problem if you know the spoken word, but how to write it down, how to spell it is difficult.

The 'ay' sound in English has three main spellings

So if you think about it, you'll know already some of the different ways to spell this 'ay' sound. You'll be familiar with words like 'play', P L A Y or 'to say', S A Y. There's also' essay' and 'mayonnaise' - all of these use that AY spelling to make an 'ay' sound.

And you'll be familiar with other words that use magic E like the word 'plate', P L A T E, or 'aeroplane', A E R O P L A N E. You know these words, so you probably don't struggle with them. You probably don't struggle to say them or to spell them.

You'll also know the other common spelling for the 'ay' sound - AI like in the word 'email' or 'to sail', S A I L or the word train, T R A I N. They all use AI to make their 'ay' sound.

Sometimes lots of different spellings for one vowel sound!

So those three spellings for an 'ay' sound are pretty consistent, but the problem is some of the other spellings for that sound, well, they aren't pronounced the same way in every word. So I gave you the example of 'grey', G R E Y and 'they', T H E Y. Common words, you'll probably already know them that make an 'ay' sound.

But does EY always mean an 'ay' sound in English? Well, no it doesn't. If you look at words like 'monkey', M O N K E Y, or 'donkey', D O N K E Y, then you'll hear that the EY on the end is more of an 'ee' sound. Like if I've lost my 'keys', that's K E Y. So the EY spelling can make different sounds. What about the word 'eye', E Y E? That's a strange one.

I also gave you the examples for the 'ay' sound of the words 'neighbour' and 'eight', which have an E I G H to make the 'ay' sound. There are also quite a few words in English that use a simple EI to make that 'ay' sound.

So in words like 'veil', V E I L. That's a covering for the face. Or 'vein', V E I N. That's a little tube in your body through which your blood flows. That's a 'vein'. So those words use a simple EI to make their 'ay' sound.

And the same vowel combination in spelling can be pronounced differently

So I guess the point I'm making here is that for the same vowel sound in English, there can be quite a lot of different spellings. But what I'm also saying with the example of 'grey' and 'monkey', that the same vowel spelling can make different sounds.

So if we take that EI spelling as our example, I'm gonna give you some words which are very differently pronounced, but have this EI spelling in them. So focus on the EI bit of the word I'm saying here.


A photograph of a confused man shruging. English words can have different pronunciations, which can make them difficult to learn. Adept English is hear to help.

©️ Adept English 2022

Examples of different pronunciations of the 'EI' vowel combination

Being. So that's B E I N G, reinforcement, reincarnation. So that EI is a sort of 'ee-i', 'ee-i' type sound.

Whereas in the word 'weird', W E I R D, it's an 'ee' sound, 'weird'. ' Ceiling', 'protein'. All of these have EI for their vowel, but these have an 'ee' sound.

' Eight', 'weight', ' surveillance', 'beige', 'veil', 'abseil'. Again, they're all spelt with an EI, but they have an 'ay' sound. More of these?

' Seismology', 'kaleidoscope', 'Einstein'. So the 'I' sound in all of these words is spelled with an EI.

Another sound that this EI letter combination can make?

'Spontaneity', 'deity'. So in those words - 'deity' is D E I T Y and it means 'a god' - then it's making a sort of 'ay-ee', 'ay-ee' type sound.

And finally, EI can make an 'air' sound. Such as in the words 'their', T H E I R or 'heir', H E I R.

So the simple combination of the letters EI can make a variety of sounds. As with all of these things, a little bit of studying and a little bit of awareness goes a long way. It's useful to be aware that there are many spellings for the same sound, and the same spelling may be pronounced in lots of different ways.

Download The Podcast Audio & Transcript

Be aware of these challenges, but listening practice makes the biggest difference

But what really helps you here is English listening practice. Think about all those common words with the 'ay' sound, the ones that you know already. So examples would be 'they', T H E Y, and 'to say', S A Y. You probably manage to read and to say these words with very little problem because they're familiar to you. You've used them and heard them lots of times before.

The more English listening that you do, the better you become, and the more automatic these spellings become. It's the listening practice that makes the biggest difference.

Use the written words! Adept English always provide a transcript

When you're listening to the Adept English podcast, then it's good sometimes to do it with the transcript in front of you. You can always find the transcript on our website at, or you can listen on Spotify or YouTube so that the words are there in front of you as you listen. That's a good way to keep your English spelling, your written English moving forward as well as your understanding and your speaking.


Let us know what you think about this podcast. Was it useful? Do you want more like this? We like it when you speak to us.

Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.

Thank you so much for listening. Please help me tell others about this podcast by reviewing or rating it. And, please share it on social media. You can find more listening lessons and a free English course at



The voice of Adeptenglish, loves English and wants to help people who want to speak English fluently.
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