A, E, I, O, U and sometimes Y and W

When you were a child, did you learn that the vowels were, “A, E, I, O,U and sometimes Y” or “A, E, I, O, U and sometimes Y and W”?  I learned the latter.  I went to Catholic school; I don’t know if that makes a difference or not, but we learned it with the “W”.  I don’t ever remember being taught exactly when a W was a vowel, but that’s what I was taught and if you wanted to get the question, “What letters of the alphabet are vowels?” correct, you tacked on the W.  Catholic school was full of memorization so we didn’t question this one.

A couple of years ago a friend of mine and her family moved across the pond.  When her children told her they had learned “A, E, I, O, U and sometimes Y and W” at school, she was surprised.  She had never heard about the W.  She questioned the teacher about the W and was informed, yes, W can be used as a vowel at times, no the teacher could not give her an example of when the W is used as a vowel but it can be and that is what the school teaches.  My friend asked Facebook land if anyone else had heard about the W and and it was an almost even split of friends who had or had not heard of the W.

Well, my friends, I am giddy with excitement to inform you – I have a W example!  Dun-dun-DUUUUN!  Get back up off the floor, close your mouth and read on.

Part of B’s Language Arts work today contained this rule: “If a one-syllable word has two vowels, the first vowel usually stands for the long sound and the second vowel is silent.” (Sonlight Language Arts curriculum)  After the rule, examples are given – flute, rope, doe, row.  Row has a little foot note “1” next to it and the footnote reads, “1. The letters Y and W are sometimes considered vowels.”  So, in the word “row”, both the O and the W are vowels.  According to a previous week’s rule, “If a one-syllable word contains only one vowel, that vowel usually stands for the short sound.”  Examples are ask and nap.  So, in the word “row”, if the W was a consonant, than the O would have a short sound and the OW together would be pronounced “ou” as in “outstanding” or the exclamation most of us say when we feel pain.  However, we pronounce the word “row” as “roh”.  Therefore, according to the grammatical rules, the W in this word, as well as in the words “throw”, “thrown” and “bow” (the hair ribbon or package decoration, not the curtsy) is a vowel.

You have no idea how excited B and I were to finally find a justification for our “…and W”!  We tripped over each other, running to the hubs and kept speaking over each other trying to be the 1st one to tell the hubs the news!  He got it, he was appreciative of us clearing it up, but he did not exhibit the appropriate amount of excitement.  *Insert huffy breath*  But I know a certain someone over the pond who will finally get some closure with this news.  ;o)


  1. Anonymous says:

    How Interesting. I learned it with only the sometimes y. I never knew this. I have a friend in ny who is a reading specialist. I'm going to ask her and see what she says just out if curiosity. Trish


  2. Anonymous says:

    OMGoodness !!! I just today, told someone that same rhyme and they laughed at me. I, too, attended Catholic school for K-8 and was taught that. I was soooo confused today that i made it my mission to come home and research this. I could not understand how I could've made this up and remembered for 40 yrs. Thank you, thank you, thank you ! I am not crazy.


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