What Are Vowels and Consonants?

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Vowels and consonants are basic speech sounds that make up the alphabet. The five English vowels are “a,” “e,” “i,” “o” and “u” while the remaining letters represent consonants, such as “b,” “d,” “n” and “s.” The letter “y” is sometimes treated as a vowel depending on its pronunciation.

Keeping the mouth and throat open while the vocal cords vibrate without audible friction creates vowel sounds. Stopping the breath in the vocal tract during enunciation generates consonant sounds. Vowel sounds break up consecutive consonant sounds and are integral to forming syllables which go on to create words. Some vowels, such as “a” and “i,” form complete words by themselves.