Diphthong Lesson for Kids: Definition & Examples

Instructor: Valerie Keenan

Valerie has taught elementary school and has her master's degree in education.

There are many rules that contribute to the English language, and some are followed effortlessly by those who speak it. One such rule is that of diphthongs, and in this lesson you will find out what diphthongs are, learn how to recognize them, and practice finding them in sentences on your own.

Unspoken Rules

The English language is a complex system, much like mathematics. Certain words fit together while others do not, and when paired correctly sentences are formed. To some, the English language might seem a bit confusing and overwhelming because there are so many rules that must be followed. Even people who have always spoken English follow certain language rules every day without even realizing it.

English speakers follow certain rules when they talk without even realizing it.
Talking

One of these rules that English speakers effortlessly follow involves a natural sound change that occurs in many words that are used daily. A diphthong is the double vowel sound that can occur when there are two vowels side by side, such as in 'foil' and 'pout,' or in words with a single vowel, such as 'late' and 'joy.'

Although a diphthong has two distinct vowel sounds, they remain within the same syllable, or unit of sound.

For example:

  • 'Join' may sound as though it has two syllables, broken up like this: jo-in

However:

  • The double vowel sound created by the letters oi is in fact part of the same syllable, so 'join' is a single syllable word.

The natural process of moving from one vowel to another when we pronounce diphthongs is called gliding. Say the word 'join' out loud, and notice how easily your mouth moves from the o sound to the i sound in the word! It just glides right out, doesn't it?

Recognizing a Diphthong

The best way to determine if a word has a diphthong with two vowel sounds, or a monophthong with only one vowel sound, is to listen to how it sounds when you say it out loud. If the vowel sound changes within the same syllable, it's most definitely a diphthong.

Rules

Examples of Diphthongs

There are several different ways a diphthong can be formed. Take a look at the following chart that includes some examples of different types of diphthongs, and see how the sounds change in each by saying the words out loud.

long A to long E long I to long E long O to long E long E to Ur long A to Ur short A to long U long O to long U
Away Sky Foil Peer Bear Brown Low
Eight Tie Enjoy Hear Hair Now Coat
Day Eye Toy Steer Wear Frown Toe

Practice

See if you can find all of the diphthongs in the following sentences:

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