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How many vowels and consonants are there in English alphabet?


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October 16, 2009 12:51AM

English alphabet Answer

IF THIS IS NOT a trick question, there are 5 vowels and 21 consonants in the English alphabet, (at the moment!) making a total of 26 letters in the English alphabet.
(The number of letters has changed over the centuries, but this is another matter!)

The letters a,e,i,o,u, are traditionally called vowels (See Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary) but, to be technical, the vowel 'sound' is also associated with the 'consonants' w and y.

(Merriam-Webster's dictionary says: Vowel: a letter or other symbol representing a vowel -usually used in English of a, e, i, o, u, and sometimes y.)

IF THIS IS a trick question, and actually means "How many vowels and consonants are in the words 'English alphabet'?", the answers could be:

  • 5 vowels and 10 consonants, or
  • 3 vowels (2 of which are repeated), plus 8 consonants (2 of which are also repeated)

English phonology Answer

The meaning of the words "vowel" and "consonant" refers to the sounds of a language, not the letters. For example, c and k both have the same sound, so are the same consonant; whilst q has no sound by itself until it's joined to u whereby its sound become kw phonetically.

A better question is: How many vowels and consonants are there in the English language?

The answer is: it depends on dialect and variation. RP has 24 consonants and 23 vowels, whilst American English has 25 consonants and 19 vowels.

The phonology of the English language is a big subject. The link below gives more information, but it is by no means definitive on the matter.
  • See Related links below for more information on the English Alphabet and on English phonology.