English spelling is complex and often the same letters have multiple pronunciations depending on the word they’re in.
In modern British English there are five – yes FIVE – ways we pronounce “OO”. There’s no logic behind why some words have one pronunciation while others have a different one. As a learner of English pronunciation you will need to learn these different pronunciations by heart.
I live in Yorkshire and in my accent (and many other northern British English accents) there are only (only!) four ways to pronounce “OO”. This is because the vowel in “flood” and “blood” does not exist in most northern accents. Instead, we pronounce these words with the same vowel as “good” and “look”.
There are two main ways to pronounce “OO” though – these are with the long GOOSE vowel /uː/ or the short FOOT vowel /ʊ/.
Words with the long GOOSE vowel and “OO” spelling include:
/uː/ : food, moon, soon, spook, smooth, loose, choose etc
Words with the short FOOT vowel include:
/ʊ/ : good, wool, stood, wood, cook, look, etc
I frequently hear students who are learning English pronounce some of these words with the FOOT vowel /ʊ/ with the long vowel of GOOSE. If you are learning a Standard British Accent you will need to be careful here. For example, I often hear students use the same vowel in “good food” but the correct pronunciation in Standard British English is /ɡʊd fuːd/.
There are also three other, less common, ways to pronounce “OO”,
Some words use the long vowel found in THOUGHT, NORTH or FORCE /ɔː/ for example
floor, poor, moor, door, etc
There are a pair of words with the short STRUT vowel /ʌ/, these are
And finally there is one word that uses the GOAT vowel /əʊ/:
In this video I will show you how to pronounce the sounds and I will also test how well you know which words use which vowel.You can watch this video here.
This sentence will help you remember the main four ways to pronounce “OO”:
The poor cook flooded the floor.
I hope that was helpful. Let me know what other spellings you find difficult to confidently pronounce.