Up for a challenge today? This Advanced English Lesson teaches, in detail, the 6 sounds created by the letters “oo”.
I break down each of these sounds, teach you the precise pronunciation of each and make sure that you’re speaking each of them in the way that a native speaker would.
Think you can handle it?
If you take the challenge and enjoy this Advanced lesson please forward it to the people in your life who might also be up for it
YouTube blocked? Click here to see the video.
One of you reached out to me and said: Rachel, will you make a video that goes over the pronunciation of O-O? There are many different pronunciations. Do you know them all? Let’s learn them and practice them.
As we study the pronunciation of any given letter or set of letters, we have to remember the sad fact that English is not phonetic. That’s why spelling can be so tricky, and why pronunciation can be so hard.
A phonetic language is one where speech sounds, like AH for example, are written just one way. But in English, the vowel sound AH appears with many different spellings in different words:
The letter A like in FATHER.
The letter E like in SERGEANT. Ah.
The Letter O like in BODY. Ah.
The letters AA like in BAZAAR. Ah.
The letters EA like in HEART. Ah.
For example. The same is true for letters. Any letter, or set of letters like OO, might have more than one pronunciation.
The most common pronunciation for the letter OO is the sound [u]. This happens in words like ‘zoo’, ‘food’, ‘moon’, ‘loop’. OO. The lips are a bit relaxed, and then the come into a tighter circle. OO. I have a video that goes over the pronunciation of this sound, including some close ups of the mouth. This is in my Sounds of American English series, and I’ll link to that video here and in the description below.
Another common pronunciation is the UH sound like in ‘book’, ‘cook’, ‘foot’, ‘hoodie’. Uh, uh. Notice the lips flare a bit for this sound. Uh. Uh. See an in-depth video on that sound by clicking here, or, you know what’s even better? I’ll link to the playlist with ALL the sounds of American English at the end of this video.
Another pronunciation in some common words with O-O is the AW as in LAW sound. For this sound, I’ve only found words where OO is followed by R, and that does change the AW sound, it makes it more round. Let me show you what I mean. Some common words here would be ‘door’, ‘poor’, ‘floor’. AW as in LAW is pronounced like this, AW, AW. But in these words, the mouth closes more and the tongue pulls back a little bit more: door, o-o, do-o- door, aw, aw, law. So the sound is more closed.
What about the words ‘flood’ and ‘blood’? What vowel sound do you hear there? Flood, blood, bloody. It’s the UH as in BUTTER sound. So, a fourth sound.
Now, we’ve talked about ‘food’, ‘foot’, ‘floor’, and ‘flood’. In all of these words, O-O is pronounced differently. In ‘food’, it’s OO. In ‘foot’, it’s UH. In ‘floor’, it’s AW, in ‘flood’ it’s UH.
Look at the four words. Can you tell by looking which vowel sound it is? What’s the clue? How to do you know the pronunciation of the letters O-O by looking at a word? Do you know the answer?
It’s a disappointing one. There’s no way to know by looking at these words. Really, the pronunciation of a word has to be memorized when you learn the definition of a new word. I know. It’s extra work. It’s one of the things that makes communicating in English, speaking English, that much harder. Food, foot, floor, flood.
There are even two more pronunciations, though they’re not as frequent. First, the word ‘cooperation’, or, for short, you might see it as ‘coop’. What’s interesting is that there, the two letters O are actually in different syllables, making two different sounds.
The first is the OH diphthong: co- oh- oh- and the second is the AH as in FATHER vowel. OH-AH. OH-AH. Co-op. Co-op. Occasionally you’ll see this written with a dash between these two syllables, but often not. Co-op. This pronunciation is also in the word ‘zoology’, where there is a syllable split between the two O’s. OH-AH. Zo-ology. This one is funny because it’s related to the word ‘zoo’, where the double O makes one sound, the OO vowel. Zoology, the study of animals, zoo, a place where animals are kept. Same root, different pronunciation of OO.
Also the O-O in the word ‘brooch’. The most common pronunciation for this in the US is with the OH as in NO diphthong. OH, broo-, brooch. A brooch is a piece of jewelry that you can pin to your shirt or jacket.
So we’ve gone over six pronunciations. Let’s review.
Double O makes the OH diphthong like in ‘brooch.
It makes two sounds: The OH diphthong plus the AH vowel, like in ‘cooperation’ or ‘zoology’.
There are also four vowels that can be made with the double O: Food, foot, floor, flood. For these four, let’s go over more words for each category.
The UH as in BUTTER vowel: Flood, blood, and other words or compound words with ‘blood’, like ‘bloody’ or ‘blood work’.
The AW as in LAW plus R: Floor, oh-oh, floor, door, anything with ‘door’ like ‘doorway’, ‘doormat’, ‘indoor’, ‘outdoor’. Also, the word ‘poor’, which is a homophone with the word ‘pour’, P-O-U-R, like when you pour water out of a pitcher.
The UH as in PUSH vowel: there are lots that end in K. Book, cook, hook, look, took. And any words that are variations or compound words, like bookshelf, bookstore, bookworm, bookmark, booking, books. Cooking, cookbook. Fishhook, unhook. Looks, looking, lookout. Mistook, undertook.
We have ‘foot’ and related words like: football, barefoot, foothill.
Good, hood, wood, and related words like: goodbye, lots of words that end in –hood like neighborhood, boyhood, girlhood, adulthood. We have woods, woodpecker, woodcutter, plywood, redwood, hardwood. Uh.
We have brook, booger, cookie.
And the most common pronunciation, the OO vowel like in: too, boot, cool, moon, mood, boom, doom, food, goofy, fool, hoop, loop, noon, oops, ooze, roof, soon, cartoon, bloom, aloof, boost, booze, broom, hoop, moose, proof, scoop, shoot, stoop, bamboo, Google, goose.
I hope this video has helped clarify what’s going on with the letters O-O. You have several different pronunciations, but we’ve gone over a lot of the most common words with OO in this video. Were any of the pronunciations different from what you thought? It might not be a bad idea to watch the video again to solidify the words for each pronunciation.
Also, here’s that playlist I promised you. It has a video for each sound in American English. That, of course, includes the possible pronunciation of O-O that you learned today. As you go forward speaking English, think to yourself, I am now the master of the letters OO.
That’s it, and thanks so much for using Rachel’s English.