O sound in Italian

O in Italian is a vowel.

How to pronounce O in Italian

O can be open or closed. When it’s unstressed, it’s always closed. When it’s stressed, it can be either open or closed.

Open any Italian dictionary and look up any word. In dictionaries…

  • open vowels are represented by a grave accent (`)
  • closed vowels are represented by an acute accent, (´).

Its IPA symbols are /ɔ/ (open o) and /o/ (closed o).

O
O sound (open, closed)

Examples:

Orco, botolo, sotto, trotto, posto
(/ˈorko/, /ˈbɔtolo/, /ˈsotto/, /ˈtrɔtto/, /ˈposto/)
Orc, small hysteric dog, under, trot, place

car going around the globe with a gps

Although the quality of the vowel O in any given word is dictated by pronunciation rules, these rules are almost never followed by native speakers because pronunciation varies greatly from place to place in the country, so there’s really no “wrong” way to pronounce the E sound in Italian.

Only standard Italian, the accent that used on television, on the radio and in movie dubbing, actually follows the rules, but nobody speaks it in real life because the influence of regional accents is very strong.

Also, there’s no way people can misunderstand you if you pronounce an open O instead of a closed E. Homographs are very uncommon.


Length of the O sound

The O sound in Italian can be short or long.

It is long if it’s stressed and it’s at the end of the syllable, but not at the end of a word. For example…

Perdono
(/perˈdono/)
Forgiveness

Listen closely. The second “o” in perdono is long, since it’s stressed and is at the end of the syllable (do).

Rotondo
(/roˈtondo/)
Round

turtle and elephants sustaining a flat earth

The stress is yet again on the second “o” vowel, but its length is short because the syllable ends with an -n (ton).


Other Italian words with the O sound

Botto
(/ˈbɔtto/)
Boom, bang

Osso
(/ˈɔsso/)
Bone

Porto
(/ˈpɔrto/)
Port

Boccolo
(/ˈbokkolo/)
Curl

Colosso
(/koˈlɔsso/)
Colossus

Fiocco
(/ˈfjɔkko/)
Bow, ribbon

red bow

Your turn!

Pronounce each given word.

Easy


Hard


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