Vowels 16 and 17, /əʊ/ versus /aʊ/    134 pairs      [boatbout.html]

The /əʊ/ diphthong is spelled in many ways including <oCe>, <oe>, <oa> and <ough> in though. The /aʊ/ diphthong is spelled <ou> or <ow>, and <au> in the loan word Frau. Notice the pairs arising from the homographs bow, row and sow.

This is a contrast between two diphthongs with similar starting positions and direction of movement. It is a known problem for Scandinavian learners and possibly others, though most learners will simply replace /əʊ/ with a monophthong.

Interesting pairs include:

dhoti doughty
known noun

The density figure is 6.28%. The set makes 70 semantic contrasts giving a loading of 52.2%.

arose arouse
beau bough
  beaux boughs	  
beau bow
  beaux bows  
blows blouse 
boat bout
  boats bouts
bode bowed
Boer bower
  Boers bowers
boned bound
bow bough
  bows boughs
bow bow
  bows bows  
  bowing bowing
  bowed bowed
chose chows
clone clown
  clones clowns
Co cow
coach couch
  coached couched
  coaches couches
  coaching couching
coal cowl
  coaling cowling
  coals cowls
code cowed
crone crown
  crones crowns
crowed crowd 
devote devout
dhoti doughty
doe dhow 
  does dhows 
dose douse
  dosed doused
  doses douses
  dosing dousing
dote doubt
  doted doubted
  dotes doubts
  doting doubting
doze dowse
  dozing dowsing 
  dozed dowsed
  dozes dowses
drone drown
  droned drowned
  drones drowns
  droning drowning
float flout
  floated flouted
  floating flouting 
  floats flouts
foal foul
  foaled fouled
  foaling fouling
  foals fouls
fro Frau 
goat gout
groaned ground
gross grouse
  grossed groused
  grosses grouses
  grossing grousing
hoe how
hoes house
hole howl
  holed howled
  holes howls
  holing howling
honed hound
hose house
  hosed housed
  hoses houses
  hosing housing
know now
known noun	  
load loud
loader louder
lode loud
lower lour
  lowered loured 
  lowering louring 
  lowers lours 
moaned mound
most moused
no now
note knout 
  notes knouts 
oast oust
  oasts ousts
phoned found 
poach pouch
  poached pouched
  poaches pouches
  poaching pouching
pro prow
prole prowl
  proles prowls
prose prows
road rowed
roe row
rose rouse
  roses rouses
rote rout
row row
  rows rows
  rowing rowing
  rowed rowed
scold scowled
sew sow
  sews sows
sloe slough 
  sloes sloughs
so sow
sow sow
  sows sows
stoat stout
strode Stroud 
though thou
tone town
  tones towns
Tony townee
tote tout
  toted touted
  totes touts
  toting touting
woe wow
  woes wows

John Higgins, Shaftesbury, December 2009
updated Chiang Mai, 2024