How to Pronounce ‘e’ at the Beginning of English Words

I received a great question recently from a student about the pronunciation of words that start with ‘e’. I thought I’d share my response in case it can help you!

The Question:

“Hi Annie. Some confusion with phonetics regarding the e sound. In economy takes the ee sound, in elephant takes the e sound and so in many other words. Any phonetic rules about the e sound? Thanks!”

My Answer:

“You asked a very good question which has caused me to go back and do some research. There isn’t a strong rule that explains this pronunciation difference. Usually I can identify some patterns that explain it but this one doesn’t seem to be following any of the standard rules!

So, I went through the most common words that start with ‘e’ and was able to create categories. There are 3 different possible pronunciations for the beginning ‘e’ sound. It’s either /e/ as in ‘elephant’, /ee/ as in ‘each’, or /u/ as in ‘up’.

Often, it happens where a word starting with ‘e’ can be pronounced as /ee/ or /u/ and both are correct. I’ve put an astrics* next to those.

/e/

Especially
Establish
Estate
Escape
Entry
Emphasis
Entire
Ethnic
Every
Edit
Economic
Edge
Education
Element
Elephant
Embrace
Engine
Environment
Entire
Every
Excellent
Error
Extra – ‘ex’ is always /e/
Estimate
Engineer
Engine
Engagement
Enforce
Energy
Enemy
Encourage
Empty
Employment
Employee
Embrace
Else
Element

/ee/
Each – the ‘ea’ together creates /ee/
Easy
Easier
Eager
English – ‘eng’ always uses /ee/
England
Enormous
Email
Equally
Evening
Equal
Ecosystem
Ebola
*Essentially
*Election
*Eliminate
*Electric
*Effect
*Eventually
*Equipment
*Emotional
*Emergency
*Electronics
*Electricity
*Economy
*Enough
*Event

/u/
*Essentially
*Election
*Eliminate
*Electric
*Effect
*Eventually
*Equipment
*Emotional
*Emergency
*Electronics
*Electricity
*Economy
*Enough
*Event

And then you have the R-vowel words. These might start with the ‘e’ and then have ‘ar’ after. These will typically be pronounced as /er/ as in ‘her’.

Early
Earn
Earth
earthquake

I wish there was a more consistent rule that would explain which sound to use in words that start with e!! Hopefully this list will help you get a feel of how these sounds are used and can help you hear them and pronounce them better.
This was a great question, keep asking so we can all learn from each other!”

Signature_Pic.jpg

English Pronunciation & Fluency Expert
Annie Ruden M.S.CCC-SLP
CEO | Accent Reduction Trainer

www.PronunciationPro.com
[email protected]

Be Understood. Be Confident.

One thought on “How to Pronounce ‘e’ at the Beginning of English Words

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *