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I can't figure out a rule that says whether 'oo' makes one sound or the other. Same number of syllables: one closed, but the sound is different.

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    You are operating under the delusion that English spelling primarily represents pronunciation. It actually represents word origin primarily, and pronunciation only secondarily. Oct 7, 2013 at 3:22
  • One word for you: ghoti
    – mplungjan
    Oct 7, 2013 at 4:19
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    @mplungjan ghoti was coined as a parody. And the proposed pronunciation is not correct because 'ti' isn't prounounced 'sh' at the end of the syllable ever; only when followed by an 'on', or such. Also, 'gh' isn't pronounced anything other than 'g' when it's not at the end of the syllable. But, yeah, what you're trying to imply is true. Oct 7, 2013 at 10:20
  • ti as in nation - ghoti is not pronounced fish, g/h/o/ti can be pronounced fish
    – mplungjan
    Oct 7, 2013 at 11:18
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    And "Raymond Luxury Yacht" is apparently pronounced "Throat Warbler Mangrove". Oct 7, 2013 at 16:25

1 Answer 1

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There are no 100% reliable spelling or pronunciation rules in English but there are exceptions and patterns which can be recognized and memorized.

My accent is British and the following words are how they are most often pronounced in the UK. American English may or may not share the same pronunciation.

The letter combination, oo, usually has two sounds: /uː/ and /ʊ/.
School, boot, and choose are pronounced as /skuːl/, /buːt/ and /ʧuːz/

Good, took, book, and look are pronounced: /gʊd/, /tʊk/, /bʊk/ and /lʊk/ but foot which logic dictates should imitate the long u vowel in boot is instead pronounced as /fʊt/. However, the short vowel sound is kept in football which is pronounced as /ˈfʊtbɔːl/.

Other words which are spelt with oo include blood and flood which are pronounced respectively /blʌd/ and /flʌd/ but food which could have the short vowel as in good, or share the same vowel sound as in flood is pronounced as /fuːd/!

In other words, you need to memorize the pronunciation for each English word and when in doubt, check with a dictionary (or ask a native speaker to help you out).

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    You forgot the sound /o:/ in words like door, floor, blood... Though some of these are pronounced /u:/ in some places.
    – Gorpik
    Oct 7, 2013 at 7:04
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    Coordinate used to be hyphenated: co-ordinate, thus was not originally an oo word. Oct 7, 2013 at 9:49
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    @TrevorD: I think you misunderstood what Mari-Lou was saying about foot and football: she used the same symbol because they are pronounced the same (in all varieties of English AFAIK). I think the however misled you.
    – Colin Fine
    Oct 7, 2013 at 20:53
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    @Gorpik Blood is pronounced differently to door and floor. And I'm unfamiliar with the phonetic symbol you posted, I've never seen it before. I don't claim to be an expert, but I have found the IPA chart to be a useful tool for learners of English.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Oct 7, 2013 at 20:59
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    Door is usually pronounced as /dɔː/; floor is /flɔː/ whereas blood is /blʌd/ likewise flood is /flʌd/
    – Mari-Lou A
    Oct 7, 2013 at 21:06

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