Pronunciation - The /u/ Sound

The /u/ sound scares a lot of ESL students. The /u/ sound has many different spellings. It can be found as ue, ui, ou, u_e, oo and of course u. To complicate matters, these different spellings have different pronunciations in many languages. We will go over each spelling and help you learn to pronounce the /u/ sound accurately and reduce your accent.

As many words use the /u/ sound, it is important to practice it often until your pronunciation is correct. When you have trouble with a given sound, focus on the one word that uses this sound that you can speak well. Repeat this sound and add other words with which you have trouble. Most importantly, speak slowly.

Creating the /u/ Sound

The mechanics of the /u/ sound are simpler than most. Start by creating a small, tight circle with your lips in the same way that you pucker your lips to give a kiss. Your tongue should be raised in your mouth.

Take a look at the examples below. Notice the different spelling groups. Notice how the words in each group have the same sound despite the different spelling.

The long /u/ sounds

u
flu, lu

oo
boot, foot, hoot, moon, roof, root, scoot, soon, snoot, toot

ou

ough
through

ue
blue, clue, hue, sue, glue, fuel, rescue

o
do

ew
few, new, pew, knew, skew, shrew, threw, eschew

u_e
cube, cute, dune, fume, june, huge, lude, rude, tune

oe
canoe, shoe

The short /u/ sounds

u
but, cut, fun, gun, run, luck

/Ʊ/ sound

The sound misleads many students. Words like put are often pronunced using the //u sound when it should in fact use the /Ʊ/ sound. Unlike the /u/ sound, the tongue is lower in the mouth. Here are some examples:

put, look, could, should, would, good

While the English language is filled with numerous exceptions to the rule, there are a limited number of sounds.