As a teaching tool, I'm looking for a sentence that contains the 5 short vowel sounds (cat, get, sit, got, mud).

The sentence should be as short as possible, contain words that are as phonetically simple as possible, and contain as few words as possible. The sentence should be describable via a visual (ie, it should be easy to recall the sentence when provided a visual hint).

Any suggestions?

Red hat is not fun...

  • Note that while get is listed in most dictionaries as /get/, many speakers today pronounce it as /gɪt/, using the KIT vowel instead. – user230 Jun 1 '18 at 16:34
  • What about the other 'short u': /ʊ/, as in put, full, look? – StoneyB on hiatus Jun 1 '18 at 16:53
  • 2
    @snailboat An interesting point. The /gɪt/ pronunciation is unusual in my neck of the woods. – NiloCK Jun 1 '18 at 18:30
  • I suppose it would be thought unhelpful to point out that there are 13 vowels in English, none of them short. Examples are easy to find: beet, bit, bait, bet, bat, bot, boat, put, boot, butt, boy, by, bough are all distinct. But facts may not be relevant in the face of a higher truth. – John Lawler Jun 1 '18 at 22:01

Perhaps something like:

Dogs lick men, cats lick fur.

Easily illustrated by a dog slobbering on a person, and a cat licking itself.

Variants on the same premise might be shorter, but make less sense, e.g. "Cats lick fur, not men". The compare and contrast aspect of the six word sentences (and the fact that all the vowels are pronounced fairly regularly) makes me favor the original. The short-u in "fur" isn't quite the same as the one in "mud" though; as StoneyB notes, there are two short-u sounds.

  • That's not a short 'u', by my definition [which is probably not the same definition as a 'proper' linguist] but as a UK native. It's that or the 'r' just messes it up. – gone fishin' again. Jun 1 '18 at 19:44

I'm stealing half of Shadow Ranger's answer, but 'fur' bothers me for the short 'u'

How about

Dogs lick ducks, cats lick hens

That works in my accent [Northern UK], but as pointed out in comments, some accents have two 'u' sounds.
Mine doesn't. Mud, put, full & look have the same 'u' in my head.
In Southern UK mud & put/full/look are nothing like each other.
In Lancastrian 'look' no longer matches.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.