How to Pronounce COVID-19 Words

With the COVID outbreak, we have many new, frequently used words in our daily vocabulary. In this lesson, we’ll cover some of the most commonly mispronounced words related to the coronavirus.


The “o” should be pronounced with rounded lips. In fact, the lips should not only round, but glide forward to say “w”.

There is a difference between “v” and “w”. When making a “v” sound, your top teeth should touch your bottom lip while air flows through. You should feel vibration on your bottom lip. The lips should NOT round. If you push your lips forward, you are not producing “v” (at least not a correct “v” sound).

Primary stress should be placed on the last syllable (beat) of the word “nineteen”. This means that the pitch of your voice will go up on “teen.”


Did you know that “qu” actually makes two sounds? You need to use a “k” and  a “w”. There are a few words, like “quarter,” in which the “qu” just says “k,” but that is the exception rather than the rule. In the word “quarantine,” the first syllable will sound like “kwor.” That’s right! We will use an “o” sound before the “r.” Make sure to round your lips to the point that they are almost closed.

The last syllable of the word, “tine,” should sound like “teen.” Be careful to use the “ee” sound; do not pronounce the vowel as “I” like in “bike.” You can read more about the “ee” sound in this blog post.


In words with “-ic” endings, stress goes on the syllable just before the ending. This means that we stress “dem” in this word. To stress “dem,” make sure your pitch goes up on “dem” and then back down on “ic.”

The “a” in the first syllable is the same vowel we hear in words like “cat.” This sound will likely be difficult to correct on your own if you aren’t already able to produce it. Just know that this sound is different from the “ah” sound we hear in words like “father.”


When you see an “au” in American English, it is almost always pronounced as “ah.” You should not round the lips at all. Not even a little bit. The tongue drops to the bottom of the mouth and the lips stay completely relaxed.

In “tion” endings, skip the vowel. You’ll move straight from the “sh” sound to the “n.”


The “s” should sound like an “s”; don’t change the “s” to “z.”


The “o” in the first syllable of the word should sound like “kuhn”. Actually, the vowel almost gets completely swallowed up by the “n.” If you try to say “k” and then “n” with no vowel in between, you’ll probably produce this syllable. Remember that even though you see the letter “o,” this does not mean that we will use an “o” sound. You can learn more about pronunciation of “con” and “com” in this blog post.

The ending of the word, “-gious,” should be one beat, not two. It will sound very similar to the word “just,” but with no “t.” The vowel will also be reduced. This just means that the vowel will be very quick and light. If you try not to produce a vowel at all, moving straight from “j” to “s,” you will probably do it perfectly.

Social distancing

The “o” in social should be produced with a rounded, gliding “o” sound. Your lips will glide forward to say “w” at the end of this sound.

The “i” and “a” in “social” are silent. You’ll use a “sh” sound and then go directly into “l.”

Think about the first “i” in the word “distancing.” This should be a relaxed “ih” sound, NOT “ee.” The tongue should be relaxed. While the tongue will be very high, the middle of the tongue will not touch the roof of the mouth.


The “o” in the word “online” is produced as “ah.” The tongue is relaxed at the bottom of the mouth and the lips are completely relaxed as well; they do not round at all. There are actually three different ways to produce “o” at the beginning of words. We won’t cover all of that in this lesson, but just know that the “o” at the beginning of words doesn’t always make the same sound.

Each word has one point of primary stress. This means that our pitch will rise on a particular syllable, or beat. The word “online” is interesting because the placement of stress changes depending on how we use the word. If we use it to describe another noun, as in “online classes,” the stress goes on the first syllable — “on.” If we use “online” as a place, as in “I’m taking classes online,” the stress will be placed on the second syllable — “line.”


Round your lips when you make the “oo” sound. Your lips should glide forward at the end of this sound to say “w.”


Stress in this word should be placed on the second syllable, “ro.”

When producing “v,” make sure to touch your top teeth to your bottom lip, letting air flow through continuously. You should feel vibration on your lower lip. Don’t round your lips or push them forward as this will create something more like “w.”

I hope this lesson has been helpful! If you’re interested in learning more about American English pronunciation, please take a look at our self-study or live coaching learning opportunities.

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