W As A Vowel [Consonant vs Vowel Sounds]

Let’s face it, the spelling of English words can be tricky. The fact that there are hundreds of different English spelling rules to memorize makes things even more tricky. New writers often get tripped up when it comes to unique rules for consonant and vowel sounds. In this post, we will break down how you can use W as a vowel in your writing!

Why Can We Use W As A Vowel?

thinking about list of vowels

As we know, spelling is a part of grammar. In fact, it is often the most difficult to master. The letter W can be particularly tricky to use correctly.

Rule: The letter W can only be used as a vowel when it is paired with the letters A, E, or O.

This means if you see any of the letter combinations, then you know that the letter W is being used as a vowel.

  • AW
  • EW
  • OW

However, in most cases W is used as a consonant. It is pronounced with a /w/ sound, as in the words “wet,” “win,” and “west.” Just like we saw with the words contemptible vs contemptuous, small spelling changes can make a huge difference!

Sentence Examples

  1. After seeing the shark behind me, I started to row the boat as fast as I could!
  2. I have no clue how long my cousin has been playing a stringed instrument.
  3. If you look out the window you will see a cow walking through the field.
  4. It was a really low moment in my life when my dog died.
  5. A crwth, also spelled crowd, refers to ancient Celtic musical instrument that is no longer played today!

Learn The Difference: Vowels vs Consonants

In order to understand how to properly use W in vowel form you need to know the difference between vowels and consonants!

  • Vowels – A speech sound that is pronounced with an open vocal tract, meaning that there is no obstruction or restriction of the airflow through the mouth. In other words, a vowel sound is produced when the airflow moves more freely. You can really understand this rule by examining the spelling of A vs An Unique. In English, the letters “A,” “E,” “I,” “O,” “U,” and sometimes “Y” an “W” are called vowels.
  • Consonant – A speech sound that is pronounced with some type of obstruction or restriction of the airflow through the mouth. In English, they are all the letters that are now vowels!

Takeaway: Pay close attention to the sounds and pronunciation of letters to determine if they are consonants or vowels.

When Can Y Be A Vowel?

To make things even more confusing, the letter “Y” can be used as a vowel in English when it appears at the end of a word or syllable and there are no other vowels in the word or syllable. Just like with the words A vs An Hour, knowing how to use consonants and vowels in critical.

In English, the letter “Y” is typically pronounced as a consonant.

  • Yes
  • Yet
  • Yard

However, Y can be used as a vowel as well. Here are some examples.

  • My
  • By

Old English History

For the very few of us that are interested, the history of the letter “W” dates back to Old English. In Old English, the letter “W” was known as “wynn,” and it was used to represent the sound /w/. The letter “wynn” was derived from the Old English alphabet and was represented by the symbol Ƿ/ƿ. However, it was eventually replaced by the French double u.

Just like we saw with our analysis of the definition of ware vs wear, words and letters can change over time. The use of vowel letters and consonant letters have been combined in different ways for years to create language!

Frequently Asked Questions

What word uses w as a vowel?

“Cow” is an example of a word that uses W as a vowel. W can be used as a vowel when it follows the letters A, E, or O in a word. So pay close attention to the letter combination.

Can y and w be vowels?

Yes, both W and sometimes Y can be used to represent vowels. W is a vowel when it follows A, E, or O. Y is a vowel when there are no other vowels in a word. In every other case, these letters are consonants.

Why are w and y called semi-vowels?

The letters “w” and “y” are called semi-vowels because they can function as both consonants and vowels in different contexts. Certain languages like the Celtic and Welsh language use W in vowel form more often than in the English language.

What are the 7 vowels?

In English, there are seven vowel letters: “A,” “E,” “I,” “O,” “U,” and sometimes “Y” and “W”. These letters can represent a variety of vowel sounds in English, depending on their position in a word and the sounds that come before or after them.

The Bottom Line

Now you know that you can use the letters Y and W as a vowel in your writing. Although this may not have been obvious at first, the English language is full of unique spelling and grammar rules. If you are to take away just one thing, pay close attention to the consonant or vowel sound! And if this is confusing, try using our check grammar online English tool for FREE!