Secrets for Better Pronunciation: The Difference Between E and I Sounds

Pronunciation is a crucial part of learning any language. Some would even argue that it’s the most important. It doesn’t matter how much you know about the grammar rules if your pronunciation is so terrible that people can’t understand you.

Therefore, today we’re going to take a step towards better English pronunciation!

Are you one of the many English learners who mix up the pronunciation of the two words: BITCH and BEACH?

My students and friends who are learning English almost always ask me what’s the difference in the pronunciation between these two similar looking words. Most nonnative speakers find differentiating the two near impossible!

The problem is that the EA in beach has a long E sound, and in many languages (like Spanish and Portuguese) the I has this same sound. So when reading the word bitch people intuitively pronounce it like beach.

To a native speaker the I in bitch doesn’t sound at all like the long E sound in Beach. It’s an entirely different sound that doesn’t even exist in many other languages.

Mastering the I in “bitch,” and many other English words, which we call the short I sound, is going to take training both your ears and your mouth. But today RealLife is here to facilitate the process for you!

Long E vs. Short E vs. Short I in English

Long E

If you speak a Latin language, like Spanish or Portuguese, then the Long E sound is probably already natural for you.

When making this sound, your mouth should widen and your tongue should rise a little bit higher in your mouth. Try it with me now:


Pay attention to what your tongue and your mouth do when making this sound. Even if it’s easy for you, it will be important for you to compare it to the two other sounds we’re going to talk about.

Short E

This is a new one that also isn’t common in a lot of other languages. It’s the short E sound that you have in words like pen, best, and heaven.

When making this sound, your mouth stays neutral, but your jaw and your tongue drop.

Check out this video for a clearer visualization of the sound.

Short I

When making the short I sound, in contrast to the E sounds, your jaw and mouth shouldn’t move–just your tongue, which rises slightly (but less than when making the long E sound).

This is the sound in words like kitchen, pin, and finish.

Now that you know each individual sound, let’s compare. Check out these two 1 Minute English Lessons in which I explain the difference between the long E, short E, and short I sounds.

Take it one step at a time

I know this is a lot of different information to try to comprehend all at once, but just try to focus on making one sound at a time, and don’t expect to be perfect without some practice.

Remember, your tongue and mouth are muscles–and like any muscle, if you want them to be stronger (and therefore, work better), then you need to train them EVERY DAY. Most people are able to learn this sound within four or five short practice sessions, it may take around 10 days to make it permanent.

So practice these whenever you’re alone. I’m sure you have plenty of convenient moments–for example in your car on your way to work or while you’re in the shower.

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  • Manu Blanco Valentín says:

    Thanks for that video, Ethan! Now that I discovered this blog I'll continue coming by to check the new content!

  • Manu Blanco Valentín says:

    Thanks for that video, Ethan! Now that I discovered this blog I'll continue coming by to check the new content!

  • Ethan Zinho says:

    Awesome, Manu! I'm glad you enjoyed

  • Ethan Zinho says:

    Awesome, Manu! I'm glad you enjoyed

  • Paulo Roberto says:

    It was a very useful class. Thans a lot for this one.

  • Zulmira Andrade Rabelo says:

    This video helps me a lot, thank you.

  • catherine ng says:

    It’s a pity my youtube is blocked, cannot view the video. I am in urumqi, xinjiang, china. Is there anyone who can help solve this problem?

  • Anil Tiwari says:

    While learning IPA in home. I got a question in my mind.

    Why pronunciation is so different for following two words.


    Both have i and e

  • Deneb says:

    There is not such long and short sounds, the point where you guys, articulate vowels is complete different than Spanish (that is my native language) but I can understand that is one of the ways to explain the difference. I was traveling in US for practicing my English and believe me no one could make distinguish long or short vowels until I notice how they were pronouncing some words like winner and wiener, eat and it, and so on.

    • Agnieszka from RealLife English says:

      Thank you for sharing it, Deneb! Great that you learned it.