Weak Vowels

– Listen to the four words with weak endings spelt ‘en’. Which word does not contain a schwa sound?

women       written      pollen     bitten

‘Women’ is pronounced with a weak /ɪ/ sound. All the other words are pronounced with a schwa sound.

How do I pronounce weak vowels in English?

  • The most common weak vowel sounds in English are /ə/ and /ɪ/.
  • These weak sounds are spelt using ‘a’, ‘e’, ‘i’, ‘o’, & ‘u’ in written English.
  • Weak vowels can appear at the beginning, middle and end of words.
  • Some words can be pronounced with either an /ə/ or /ɪ/.
    For example: ‘kitchen’ /ˈkɪtʃɪn/ or /ˈkɪtʃən/


Repeat the following:

/ə/ beaten, lentil, parade, mother, council, spoken
/ɪ/ surface, kitchen, women, orange, believe


Listen to the recording and decide whether the weak vowel is /ə/ or /ɪ/.

A. village

B. wanted

C. taken

D. carpet

E. cushion

F. finish

G. bicycle

H. meeting

I. Thailand

J. salad

A. /ɪ/ B. /ɪ/ C. /ə/ D. /ɪ/ E. /ə/ F. /ɪ/ G. /ə/ H. /ɪ/ I. /ə/ J. /ə/