What are Vowels and Consonants?

Vowels & Consonants 1

The English Language is created through the different combinations of 44 sounds (phonemes), 20 vowels and 24 consonants. In our written language we refer to the letters of the alphabet as being consonant or vowel letters depending on which type of sound they are representing.

Vowel sounds allow the air to flow freely, causing the chin to drop noticeably, whilst consonant sounds are produced by restricting the air flow.

Vowel sounds are usually (in the UK Education System) split into two main categories based on sound quality:

  • ‘Short’ vowel sounds, due to the short duration of the sound being made. The sound cannot be held onto without becoming distorted
  • ‘Long’ vowel sounds, due to the length of their pronunciation. These can often be held without distorting their sound.

The letters of the alphabet that we normally associate as being the vowel letters are: a, e, i, o and u. The letter ‘y’ is sometimes referred to as an honorary vowel as it is used to replace one of the other vowel letters in words such as: fly or my.

All words in the English language have at least one vowel sound in them so the written version must have at least one vowel letter in it.

Consonant sounds are made (produced) when the air flow is being restricted in some way, for example, changes in tongue position resulting in the mouth not opening as wide. This means that the jaw doesn’t drop noticeably, which is different to vowel sounds.

The letters of the alphabet that usually represent the consonant sounds are: b, c, d, f, g, h, j, k, l, m, n, p, q, r, s, t, v, w, x, y, z.

13 thoughts on “What are Vowels and Consonants?

  1. Neha August 31, 2020 / 3:47 pm

    But we learn at school that y is not a vowel
    Pls reply


    • lucyteachchildren September 2, 2020 / 11:35 am

      The letter ‘y’ is what is known as a semi-vowel. All words in the English language must have a vowel in them so in the following examples the letter ‘y’ is acting as a vowel: my, fly, try and sky. I hope this helps Lucy


      • Aminu ahmad December 29, 2020 / 6:11 am

        I really so much appreciated about this accurate explanation and I Will correct my errors thanks.


  2. arthur March 2, 2021 / 9:16 pm

    Can you tell me one of the Vowels


  3. GIMBA M. BELLO WURO ARSI April 2, 2021 / 11:45 pm

    little by little our english is getting better. Thank u 4 improving our knowledge


  4. Sadiq Ahmed August 11, 2021 / 12:06 pm

    I do respect and appreciate with the Explanation


  5. Katsriku Yawuli Belinda July 13, 2022 / 1:24 pm

    How can I download it please


    • lucyteachchildren July 14, 2022 / 8:56 am

      Hi, These can be found on our teach
      phonics website, however the animation are not downloadable.


  6. Gift John September 12, 2022 / 1:33 am

    I will love to learn more, thank you


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