/ɪ/ and /i:/ American English Pronunciation of I and EE - English Outside The Box (2024)

Pronunciation is an important part of your English fluency puzzle, because you need the people around you to understand what you are saying in order to communicate effectively. How is your pronunciation of the I (live) and EE (leave) sounds? Chances are you have some difficulty, as most of my English students do. However, don’t worry, after today you’ll feel much more confident in your English pronunciation skills and the pronunciation ofI and EE.

To get you started on the right track, I recommend watching this 5 Minute English video first. In the video, I explain how you make the sounds, the differences between the two, and give you sample word lists and practice sentences. The video will also show you these sounds, allowing a better understanding of the differences. You can continue reading the full lesson to get more details, examples, and of course, the practice exercises!

English Pronunciation of /ɪ/ (I) and /i:/ (EE)

Understanding the correct mouth position:

/i:/ (EE)

This is a tense vowel, and requires the following:

  • tense (facial) muscles
  • lips spread, with a smile
  • tongue higher in mouth
  • muscles in throat constricted

/ɪ/ (I)

This is a laxvowel, and requires the following:

  • relaxed(facial) muscles
  • jaw slightly drops (NO smiles)
  • tonguerelaxed
  • muscles in throat are not tense

If you are unsure about how/where your tongue should be. You can do the “finger test”to check for placement. Place your index [pointer] finger in your mouth, angled upward so it’s on the roof of your mouth. If you make the EE sound, you should feel pressure on your finger because your tongue is pushing uponto it. If you make the I sound, you should not feel this pressure because your tongue should not be touching your finger. Can you feel the difference? If you’re not sure about this finger tense, watch this quick video.

Practice, practice, practice! Continue practicing these sounds individually until you actually feel a difference in the two. Then move onto reviewing the individual words.

Word lists:

/i:/ (EE)

from the video:

beat
seat
cheap
feet
green
eat
piece
sheet
beach

additional words:

deep
eel
feel
heap
each
leave
leak
scene
teak

/ɪ/ (I)

from the video:

bit
sit
chip
fit
grin
it
piss
sh*t
bitch

additional words:

dip
ill
fill
hip
itch
live
lick
sin
tick

Keep on practicing, practicing, practicing!You’ve already gotten comfortable with the sounds, so you now need to be comfortable with the words individually. When you say each of these words, check that they match the requirements mentioned above, or the way I say them in the video. Once you’re comfortable with the words on their own, begin comparing the two:

beat bit

seat sit

cheap chip

feet fit

etc… etc… I recommend making the word lists side by side in your own notebook to practice.

Sentence Practice:

When you are focusing on the sounds alone, it can be quite easy once you get comfortable. So add the challenge, and make it more natural and realistic by practicing the words in sentences with a combination of other sounds.

Sentences with both sounds:

  1. I grin when I find green beans in the sale bin.
  2. This chip is delicious and cheap, eat it.
  3. I need to sit in the seat, because my feet do not fit in this shoe.

Sentences with the/i:/sound:

  1. Please leave the scene after you each eat.
  2. There are heaps of eels swimming deep at the beach.
  3. These pieces are cheap, so they leak.

Sentences with the/ɪ/both sound:

  1. Fill it with chips
  2. A tick bit my hip so I’m ill.
  3. I live for dips in the ocean, it makes me grin.

You know what to do: practice, practice, practice! As you’ve been doing with the sounds, words, and comparisons, take your time getting comfortable with these sentences. It’s all about repetition.

PRACTICE EXERCISES

In order to do these exercises, I recommend grabbing a mirror or recording yourself while practicing to check accurate mouth positions. *Recording yourself is the most effective and you can play back your recording and listen to the differences, too.*

Complete these exercises every day, of course speaking aloud.

1. The first exercise is to repeat thelong/tense vowel sound /i:/. 3 sets of 5 reps (or 15 times)

2. Next, repeat theshort/laxed vowel sound /ɪ/. 3 sets of 5 reps (or 15 times)

*Always be checking for accuracy (use my video and the “requirements” from above)

3. NextSay the words listed above in the /i:/ list.Repeat two times.

4. Now, say the words in the /ɪ/ listand repeat twice.

5. Move on to read the sentences. Start with the focused/i:/ sentences, then the focused /ɪ/ sentences, and finally the sentences with both sounds.

Repeating these exercises every day will help you build the muscles and ability needed to say the sounds correctly. You must practice if you want to become better, just like you need to lift weights if you want to be stronger.

Some other things you can do to practice:

  • Write down as many minimals pairs with /ɪ/ and /i:/ as you can on a piece of paper (there are many different lists on the Internet). Ask a friend to read some of the words to you, and see if you can hear and understand the difference.
  • Student A and Student B exercises! Work together with a friend, your classmates, or anyone learning English to perfect thepronunciation of i and ee. You can even do this online with your conversation partner!

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE STUDENT A | STUDENT B PRACTICE WORKSHEET

Are there any other ways you like to practice pronunciation? Any questions for me about this lesson? Let me know in the comments below.

Until next week,

Happy Studying!♥

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/ɪ/ and /i:/ American English Pronunciation of I and EE - English Outside The Box (2024)
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