Vowels 9 and 16, /u/ versus /əʊ/    275 pairs      [boonbone.html]

The /u/ vowel is usually spelled <oo>, <ew>, <u> and <o> in two. The /əʊ/ diphthong has many spellings <oCe>, <oa>, <ow> and <au> in mauve, as well as the letter name O. Because of the various pronunciations associated with the spellings <o> and <ow> these lists are especially rich in homographs. Notice the homograph do which appears on both sides. The dictionary lists two spellings for soubriquet/sobriquet, each associated with a different pronunciation. I have left this in, though since the meaning does not change it does not really count as a minimal pair. A similar case is halloo/hallo.

This is a contrast between a long vowel and a diphthong, fairly close in the mouth. There is some scope for confusion, a known problem for Danes but not otherwise associated with any particular group of learners. Many speakers, including some native speakers, will use a half open monophthong [o] in place of the diphthong, but that will not in itself cause discrimination problems.

In several cases this contrast signals a change of tense: blow/blew, crow/crew, flow/flew, grow/grew, throw/threw, and in one case in the opposite direction, choose/chose. This also happens with know/knew, but because of palatalisation this is not a minimal pair except for some Americans.

There is one taboo word pair, coon/cone.

Interesting pairs include:

oozier osier
toucan token

The density figure is 8%. The set makes 141 semantic contrasts giving a loading of 52.6%.

bestrewed bestrode
blew blow
blue blow
  blued blowed 
  blues blows 
  bluing blowing 
bluer blower 
boo beau 
  boos beaux 
boo bow
  booing bowing
  boos bows
  booed bowing
booed bode 
boogie bogey 
  boogies bogeys 
boon bone 
  boons bones 
boost boast 
  boosted boasted 
  boosting boasting 
  boosts boasts 
booster boaster 
  boosters boasters 
boot boat 
  booted boated 
  booting boating 
  boots boats  
booze beaux
booze bows  
buhl bole 
chews chose
choose chose
clews close
clues close
coo Co 
cooed code 
cool coal 
  cooled coaled
  cooling coaling 
  cools coals 
cooled cold
cooler cola
  coolers colas 
coon cone 
  coons cones 
coop cope
  cooped coped
  cooping coping
  coops copes
coot coat 
  coots coats 
crew crow
  crewed crowed
  crewing crowing
  crews crows
croon crone 
  croons crones 
crooner kroner
crude crowed
cruise crows
do do
do doe
  do's does
doom dome 
  doomed domed 
  dooms domes 
drool droll 
flew floe
flew flow
flue floe
  flues floes 
flue flow
  flues flows
flute float 
  fluted floated 
  flutes floats 
  fluting floating 
fool foal 
  fooled foaled 
  fooling foaling 
  fools foals 
ghoul goal
  ghouls goals
glue glow 
  glued glowed 
  glues glows 
  gluing glowing 
gnu know
  gnus knows
goo go 
Goole goal
grew grow
groove grove
  grooves groves
group grope 
  grouped groped 
  grouping groping 
  groups gropes 
halloo hallo 
Hoo ho	  
Hoo hoe
hoop hope 
  hooped hoped
  hooping hoping
  hoops hopes
Jew Joe
June Joan 
Lewis Lois
lieu lo
lieu low
loo lo
loo low
  loos lows
loofah loafer
  loofahs loafers 
loom loam 
loon loan 
  loons loans 
loop lope
  looped loped
  looping loping
  loops lopes
moo mo 
moo mow
  mooing mowing 
  moos mows
  mooed mowed
mood mode 
  moods modes 
mood mowed
moon moan 
  mooned moaned 
  mooning moaning 
  moons moans 
moot moat 
  mooted moated 
  moots moats
move mauve 
  moves mauves 
noon known 
ooze O's 
oozier osier
outgrew outgrow
overflew overflow
overthrew overthrow
pool pole 
  pooled poled 
  pooling poling 
  pools poles 
pool poll
  pooled polled
  pooling polling
  pools polls
poop Pope 
  poops Popes 
Pru pro
prune prone 
retooled retold 
rheum roam
rheum Rome 
rood road 
  roods roads 
room Rome
room roam
  roomed roamed 
  rooming roaming 
  rooms roams 
roost roast 
  roosted roasted 
  roosting roasting 
  roosts roasts 
rooster roaster 
  roosters roasters 
root rote 	  
rude rode
rude rowed
rue roe 
rue row
  rues rows	  
  ruing rowing	
  rued rowed
rued rode
rule rôle
  rules rôles
rule roll
  ruled rolled 
  ruling rolling 
  rules rolls
ruler roller 
  rulers rollers 
rune roan 
  runes roans 
schooled scold
scoop scope
shoe show 
  shoeing showing 
  shoes shows 
  shooed showed  
shoo show
  shooing showing
  shoos shows  
Sioux sew
Sioux so
Sioux sow
sleuth sloth
  sleuths sloths
slew sloe
  slews sloes
slew slow
  slewed slowed
  slewing slowing
  slews slows
sloop slope
  sloops slopes
snood snowed
snooze snows
soon sown
sou sew
  sous sews
sou so 
sou sow
  sous sows
soubriquet sobriquet 
  soubriquets sobriquets 
soup soap 
  souped soaped 
  souping soaping 
  soups soaps 
spook spoke 
  spooks spokes 
stool stole 
  stools stoles 
strewed strode 
threw throe	
threw throw
through throe
through throw
tomb tome
  tombs tomes
too toe
too tow
tool toll 
  tooled tolledd 
  tooling tolling 
  tools tolls 
tooled told
toot tote
  tooted toted
  tooting toting
  toots totes
tootle total
  tootled totalled
  tootles totals
  tootling totalling
toucan token 
  toucans tokens 
troop trope
  troops tropes
troupe trope
  troupes tropes
truth troth 
two toe
  twos toes 
two tow
  twos tows  
who ho
who hoe
whom home 
whose hoes
whose hose
woo whoa 
woo woe
  woos woes 
wooed woad 

John Higgins, Shaftesbury, December 2009
updated Chiang Mai, 22024