How to pronounce English words ending in -ILE

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Today I want to answer a question from a student who asked how to pronounce words ending in -ILE. For example, the word “mobile.”

Words with this ending are a little tricky because there’s a pronunciation difference between British and American English. In American English, we say “mo-bull,” and in British English, they say “mo-byle.”

 


Now I’m from the U.S., so for the rest of this video, I’m going to teach you the way we say these words in American English. We’ll practice 20 words with the -ILE ending, and in American English, there are two different ways to pronounce it (plus a couple of exceptions).

Before we get started, I want to invite you to check out my American English Pronunciation Course if you want to improve your pronunciation so that you can speak more clearly and correctly.

The two different ways to pronounce the -ILE ending in American English are “ay-ull” as in smile, and “ull” as in mobile. First let’s practice the “ay-ull” sound. Repeat after me:

  • smile
  • while
  • mile
  • pile
  • tile
  • profile
  • exile
  • reptile
  • crocodile
  • compile
  • domicile

Let’s try a couple sentences:

  • The bus stop is a mile away from my house.
  • You need to fill out your profile on the website.
  • The country’s former president is now in exile.

Now let’s work on words in which the -ILE ending is pronounced “ull” as in mobile. Listen and repeat:

  • agile
  • fertile
  • fragile
  • futile
  • hostile
  • missile
  • sterile
  • versatile
  • volatile

And now a few sentences:

  • We carefully handled the fragile ornaments.
  • I ignored his hostile comments.
  • This computer program is quite versatile.

How do you know whether the -ILE ending should be pronounced ay-ull or ull?

You can’t know – you need to listen to the word in an audio dictionary, or ask a native English speaker.

At the beginning of this video, I mentioned that there are a couple of exceptions. Here are two words that end in -ILE, but it’s pronounced “eel”:

  • automobile – another word for car
  • chamomile – a type of plant with a nice smell, often used to make tea

Thanks for practicing your pronunciation with me – and if you want lots more practice, make sure to come join my American English Pronunciation Course. Bye for now!

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