When is Y not a vowel

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The letter Y can be confusing. Sometimes, it can be regarded as a consonant, while at times, a vowel. But really, when is Y not a vowel?

The Way Y Works

Y works in various ways. It is not a vowel when it sounds like a consonant. This goes for the words like you, yawn, yellow, you’re and so on. Hence, the simple rule therefore is this – Y is a consonant when it appears as the first letter of a syllable in a word. But then, if the letter is situated between consonants, then Y is considered to be a vowel.

Y as a consonant

Once you understand how the nature of this letter goes, it would not be that difficult to understand how it becomes a consonant. To end this, do not forget that it is consonant when there is already a vowel in the word.

More about Y as consonant

There are only 5 vowels in the alphabet. Those which are not included in the a,e,i,o,u are considered consonants which technically includes y. However, y can take the place of i. This is understandable because writing and speaking work in a very different way. The rules for writing are way different than that of speaking. This happens in many words like gym, cycle, baby, hairy, sky among others. This is the main reason why the y in yet acts as a consonant rather than a vowel.

Apart from the aforementioned, y is not considered consonants when they appear as a diphthong in a word. Diphthong is the glide of one vowel sound coming into another in a syllable.

Looking at the case of the word boy, where y is not a consonant but rather a vowel. This vowel has been the product of the o and y combination. For most of the time, y is a consonant when there is a vowel on the syllable already. Y appears to be a consonant as well when it takes the place of the J sound, mostly, appearing to be a soft j.

This is the reason behind the pronunciation of the names Yoda and Yolanda. Aside from these, y is not a consonant when there is no other vowels in the word like try, cry, my, bicycle, why and so on.

 To sum it up

The use of y varies. Meaning, it can be a consonant or it can be a vowel, depending upon how it was used. It serves various purposes. If you are to take it on the phonetics point of view which deals with sound, letters will neither be consonants or vowels. For such case, y is also being seen as a semi-vowel.

Y represents many sounds. To be specific, there are 4 sounds which can be derived from the said letter. There is hard y, short sound i, long sound i, and long e sound. For the hard y, the perfect example is the word yield. For the short i, the word bicycle is a good example. My is the representation of y producing long i and the word baby is the example for y creating the long e sound.

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