The English language provides a list of short vowel words that seem to be never ending. A short vowel word is any word that doesn't allow the vowel within it to generate that vowel's long vowel sound.
List of Short Vowel Words
For example, the word "bug" is a short vowel word because there's no long "U" sound. A word doesn't necessarily have to have three letters to be a short vowel word, but it makes for the easiest example and three-lettered words make up the bulk of any list of short vowel words. Let's take a look.
Short Vowel Sounds in Words
Here's the reason why words with only three letters typically make the short vowel sound. Three letters usually don't allow for a second vowel to force the long vowel sound out. Exceptions include words like "bee" or "tea."
These words use a second vowel to force the long vowel sound from the first one, while other words like "ant" or "mat" use the placement of consonants to force a short vowel sound.
But, here's an important point to keep in mind. The words listed below are short vowel sounds, not short vowel spellings. That is, just because a word is short, doesn't mean it will automatically have a short vowel sound. And vowel as written doesn't always correspond with the sound it makes. Take the word "pretty." The E is sounded like a short I, and the Y is sounded like a long E. Phonetically, it sounds more like "prit-tee," not "pret-tai."
Likewise, we can't assume a long word will automatically have a long vowel sound. Let's look at the word "business." The U and E in "business" are also sounded like a short I, and the I is silent altogether. Phonetically speaking, we don't pronounce it "buss-eye-ness." It's more like "biz-niss." With that in mind, let's explore more short vowel words, sorted by letter.
Short "A" Words
The short A sound is what you hear in words like "bat" or "map." Here are some other great examples of words with the short A sound.
Short "E" Words
The short E sound is what you hear in words like "gem" or "hem." Here are some other great examples of words with the short E sound.
Short "I" Words
The short I sound is what you hear in words like "dim" or "fib." Here are some other great examples of words with the short I sound.
Short "O" Words
The short O sound is what you hear in words like "con" or "nod." Here are some other great examples of words with the short O sound.
Short "U" Words
The short U sound is what you hear in words like "bus" or "hum." Here are some other great examples of words with the short U sound.
Using Short Vowel Sounds
Though the above list of words with short vowels is incomplete, you can use it to understand the basic usage for the short vowel sounds. These short vowel sounds are often used in larger words as well. You might see them in words that also contain long vowel sounds, or even in two-lettered words, like "in," "it," and "at." Longer words, such as "magistrate" or "fascinate," use both short long vowel sounds.
Some words use the short vowel sound and the long vowel sound, depending on the tense of the word. Words like "read," for example, are pronounced as the long vowel sound when the tense is present. For example, "We are reading this list of short vowel words."
However, when the tense is changed from present to past tense, the long vowel sound is taken away and the short vowel sound is introduced in the same word. For example, "I read the list of short vowel words, and understand much better now."
If you're teaching short vowel sounds to little learners, practice makes perfect. If you're teaching ESL students, here are some tips and resources for teaching ESL pronunciation. And, when you're ready for the flip side of the coin? Take a look at these examples of long vowel words too. You might also want to explore when "y" is a vowel.