The 44 phonemes


Despite there being just 26 letters in the English language there are 44 unique sounds, also known as phonemes. The 44 sounds help distinguish one word or meaning from another. Various letters and letter combinations known as graphemes are used to represent the sounds.

The 44 English sounds fall into three categories: consonants, vowels and digraphs, the latter being  two letter blends. Note that there is no such thing as a definitive list of phonemes because of accents, dialects and the evolution of language itself. Therefore you may discover lists with more or less than these 44 sounds.


 Sound #, Sound, Graphemes,  Examples

1. /b/ b, bb, bug, bubble 

 2. /d/ d, dd, ed, dad, add, milled 

 3. /f/ f, ff, ph, gh, lf, ft, fat, cliff, phone, enough, half, often 

 4. /g/ g, gg, gh, gu, gue, gun, egg, ghost, guest, prologue

 5. /h/ h, wh, hop, who


6. /j/ j, ge, g, dge, di, gg, jam, wage, giraffe, edge, soldier, exaggerate 

7. /k/ k, c, ch, cc, lk, qu ,q(u), ck, x, kit, cat, chris, accent, folk, bouquet, queen, rack, box  

8. /l/ l, ll, live, well

9. /m/ m, mm, mb, mn, lm, man, summer, comb, column, palm  

10. /n/ n, nn, kn, gn, pnnet, funny, know, gnat, pneumonic 

11. /p/ p, pp, pin, dippy 

12. /r/ r, rr, wr, rh, run, carrot, wrench, rhyme

13. /s/ s, ss, c, sc, ps, st, ce, se, sit, less, circle, scene, psycho, listen, pace, course

14. /t/ t, tt, th, ed, tip, matter, thomas, 


15. /v/ v, f, ph, ve, vine, of, stephen, five 

16. /w/ w, wh, u, o, wit, why, quick, choir

17. /y/ y, i, j, yes, onion, hallelujah 

18. /z/ z, zz, s, ss, x, ze, se, zed, buzz, his, scissors, xylophone, craze  


 Sound #, Sound, Graphemes,  Examples

19. /a/ a, ai, au, cat, plaid, laugh 

20. /ā/ a, ai, eigh, aigh, ay, er, et, ei, au, a_e, ea, ey, bay, maid, weigh, straight, pay, foyer, filet, eight, gauge, mate, break, they 

21. /e/ e, ea, u, ie, ai, a, eo, ei, ae, ay, end, bread, bury, friend, said, many, leopard, heifer, aesthetic, say 

22. /ē/ e, ee, ea, y, ey, oe, ie, i, ei, eo, ay, be, bee, meat, lady, key, phoenix, grief, ski, deceive, people, quay 

23. /i/ i, e, o, u, ui, y, ie, it, england, women, busy, guild, gym, sieve 

24. /ī/ i, y, igh, ie, uy, ye, ai, is, eigh, i_e, spider, sky, night, pie, guy, stye, aisle, island, height, kite 

25. /o/ o, a, ho, au, aw, ough, octopus, swan, honest, maul, slaw, fought 

26. /ō/ o, oa, o_e, oe, ow, ough, eau, oo, ew, open, moat, bone, toe, sow, dough, beau, brooch, sew 

27. /oo/ o, oo, u, ou, wolf, look, bush, would 

28. /u/ u, o, oo, ou, lug, monkey, blood, double 

29. /ū/ o, oo, ew, ue, u_e, oe, ough, ui, oew, ou, who, loon, dew, blue, flute, shoe, through, fruit, manoeuvre, group 

30. /y/ /ü/ u, you, ew, iew, yu, ul, eue, eau, ieu, eu, unit, you, knew, view, yule, mule, queue, beauty, adieu, feud 

31. /oi/ oi, oy, uoy, join, boy, buoy 

32. /ow/ ow, ou, ough, now, shout, bough

33. /ə/ (schwa) a, er, i, ar, our, or, e, ur, re, eur, about, ladder, pencil, dollar, honour, doctor, ticket, augur, centre, chauffeur

R Controlled Vowels

Sound #, Sound, Graphemes,  Examples

34. /ã/ air, are, ear, ere, eir, ayer, chair, dare, pear, where, their, prayer 

35. /ä/ a, ar, au, er, ear, math, jar, laugh, sergeant, heart 

36. /û/ ir, er, ur, ear, or, our, yr, bird, term, burn, pearl, word, journey, myrtle 

37. /ô/ aw, a, or, oor, ore, oar, our, augh, ar, ough, au, paw, ball, fork, poor, fore, board, four, taught, war, bought, sauce

38. /ēə/ ear, eer, ere, ier, ear, steer, here, tier  

 39. /üə/ ure, our, cure, tourist 


Sound #, Sound, Graphemes,  Examples

40. /zh/ s, si, z, treasure, division, azure

41. /ch/ ch, tch, tu, ti, te, chip, watch, future, action, righteous  

42. /sh/ sh, ce, s, ci, si, ch, sci, ti, sham, ocean, sure, special, pension, machine, conscience, station

43. /th/ th(voiced), th(unvoiced) thongs, leather  

44. /ng/ ng, n, ngue, ring, pink, tongue 


Many people heard about CVC or CCVC teaching for the phonics. In reality these are considered as reading practice more than phonics training.