The pronounciation of え?

So, I ended up getting in a sort of stupid debate with a Japanese learning friend about how え is pronounced and if it’s more like the sound used in English words like sets and the name ben or if it’s more like the sound used in English words like may and say. The whole thing sprung up around the name of the character Neku from The World Ends With You (音操) and if the English voice actors pronounced it correctly, Which is the correct pronounciation of the sound and of the name so I close this dumb debate

The sound in say and may is a diphthong, right? So it can’t be that specifically.

Set is closer, but I’m not sure I’d say it’s an exact match either (partially because it can vary in English).

You can use sites like forvo to hear natives saying words that include it if you want.


Yeah, I’ve never understood just where this (primarily American, I think) idea that the ~え vowel is pronounced -ay came from. Like, I’ve literally seen pronunciation guides for new learners that say things like “神戸 is pronounced ‘koh-bay’”, but it’s not. It’s nothing like that.

Been a while since I played The World Ends With You. Might have to dust it off and see what their pronunciation sounds like.


The e in pet and the e which begins the diphthong in may are not the same vowel. The latter is higher in the mouth. We don’t really differentiate these in English (or any language afaik) but linguists will tell you that they are different sounds.

Buck and book sound audibly different to us, but for many foreigners it’s hard to tell. Same deal with the e in Ben and May. The higher e only shows up in dipthongs so we don’t notice it.


Yeah, I was under the impression that it’s not as hard as “say” or “may”. Not “Nayku” but more like “Necku”, although perhaps a speck harder.

It’s somewhere between the “e” in “set” and the “ay” in “may.” Neither one is an exact match but if I had to choose, I’d say it’s closer to the “ay” in “may.” It depends a lot on the accent with which you speak English as well.

Also, if you said “necku” or “nayku” in an American accent, a Japanese person would probably hear them both as ネク, albeit pronounced badly.

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maybe more like the first e in enemy?
I don’t know if that’s the best way to think about it.
English is not my native language, and I remember growing up and having debates in school about how to pronounce the “th” in English words. Some people would say it’s just a T, some would argue it sounds more like and S, or in some words it’s a D. No one was 100% right, those are just approximations
you really should hear a native saying it

In IPA, え is analogous to /e/.

In the English word “set,” as mentioned earlier, the vowel sound would be transcribed as /ɛ/, and in the word “say,” the diphthong is /eɪ/. AFAIK, no word in American English uses /e/ as a monophthong. So the answer is neither.

Also, the way English speakers pronounce a Japanese name or word usually isn’t accurate to the native pronunciation.


Yeah, even aside from loanwords with ridiculous vowel shifts (like “sakee” or “kamahkazee” or “sahsheemee”), English speakers have a tendency to stress the middle syllable of words - あら or くま or さみ or whatever. Japanese doesn’t have a stress accent, though that’s quite easy for English speakers to emulate simply by shifting the stress to the first syllable - ぶら or るま or しみ.


This reminds me of the time when all the English VAs for an anime I was watching kept pronouncing the name Tasuku (タスク) as Tuh-SOO-koo. Aside from that, it was actually a great dub! :sweat_smile:

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I think it depends on whether you’re saying え or えい, since the second is a longer sound that comes closer to ay in some ways.

At first I thought the question was about how to say e, as in…

え,… (ehem, eh)
え? (what?)
ええええ!? (shock ~ no way!)


Or for bonus incredulity, stick a へ on the front.



Seriously though, I feel like the へええええ gets this i-sound at the end, or pending between an e- and i-sound when you draw it out like that. :thinking:

Which doesn’t happen to the え,…as in え、今日は。。。It’s a clearly a plain e-sound.



It’s something to do with the pitch going up at the end to show your shock. Well, it sounds like that to my ears anyways! ^^;



まじそう聞こえる Well, I wouldn’t say it’s the English i-sound (obviously), but the Swedish i. (English i sounds like ai after all).

As in /ɪ/?

I don’t know what the Swedish pronunciation of the letter i is…