Schwa Happens

In the English language there is an interesting sound that can come from any of the vowels – a, e, i, o, u, and y. The sound is called a schwa.

A schwa is represented in print with an upside-down e, like this: ?. The sound a schwa makes sounds like a short u (“?” or “uh”).

Schwas are only found in multi-syllable words. Let me give an example. Cotton. You don’t say, cot-ton (where the o sounds like the word ton), you say, cotton (and the second o sounds like a short u). This is a schwa.

In the word, love, the o sounds like short u, but it is not a schwa because it is a one syllable word. Same with the word “was.” Not a schwa.

An “a” at the end of a word will always be a schwa. Examples: cola (c? l?), mocha, umbrella, pizza, Montana.

Here a few more examples of words with a schwa – there are many in the English language.

  • Serpent
  • Tomato
  • Velvet
  • Signal
  • Mental
  • Lemon
  • Denim
  • Above
  • Cadet
  • Pecan
  • Beside
  • Mitten
  • Napkin

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(9) Comments

  1. Thanks for the post! I have a question… you say that the schwa is only in multisyllabic words but what about words like “the” and “a”?

    1. One syllable words do make the sound, but are not considered a schwa. A tad confusing, but it’s true — a schwa is only multi-syllable words.

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