I noticed that when I pronounce words like Show or fellow I seem to drop the w and just say Sho or Fello. My countries English is similar to British English. I wonder if that is normal or if maybe I just can't pronounce W at the end of a sentence. I am a native English speaker by the way.

British: /ʃəʊ/ American: /ʃoʊ/

British: /feləʊ/ American: /feloʊ/

What does ʊ mean?

  • Think of it as the semiconsonant glide /w/ instead of as a vocalic /ʊ/ might help. You already say this; you just don’t realized you are saying it. – tchrist Apr 8 '15 at 3:48

The majority of English speakers do not exactly pronounce a "w" at the end of a syllable like "show" or "fellow". There is a written w, and a consonantal "w" sound did indeed exist in these words historically. However, because of the historic tow-toe merger, the sound in these words is now identical for speakers of most dialects to the "long o" sound used in words not written with w like "go" or "hello". The exact sound used for this "long o" varies among speakers.

However, there is something that may sound like a "w" in many speakers' pronunciation of all of these words (both words like tow and those like toe). Many speakers use a diphthong in these words, which is a sort of gliding vowel that moves between two vowel sounds within the same syllable. We write /oʊ/ to represent a sound that starts out sounding like /o/, and moves towards an /u/- or /w/-like sound. The convention is to represent this with the symbol /ʊ/ instead of /u/, because in English the symbol /u/ is used for a long, pure /u/ sound, and /ʊ/ is used for a shorter, less distinct counterpart to /u/. (The symbol /w/ is generally not used because these words are not considered to end in a consonant.) Using a diphthong for the "long o" sound is part of the most standard dialects of both the United States and England, and most phonemic transcriptions of English are based on the standardized pronunciations used in these two countries.


On that symbol. It's here:


that symbol is the short vowel "u" of "foot" and "book."

See also:



  • 1
    I don’t think explaining it as what is essentially the PUT vowel is very useful here. – tchrist Apr 8 '15 at 3:49

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.