6 Long I Vowel Patterns


Long I has 6 patterns and several important exceptions that we will look at in this phonics lesson. Luckily, compared to some of the other long vowels, Long I has relatively few exceptions and generally follows its patterns fairly closely. If you have not checked out our post on Long A and Long E, I would suggest you take a look at those first.

While learning Long I, start with the “Magic E” and “igh” patterns. These patterns are the easiest and most consistent patterns for Long I. As your child becomes more comfortable with “Magic E” and “igh” patterns, you can start to look at the other, more difficult Long I patterns that are listed below.

If you need any more phonics help, check out our Vowels and Consonants Home Page for lessons, flashcards, and articles.


How to Pronounce the Long I

Like the other long vowels, Long I says its own name (as in like). Although this sound is generally pretty easy for kids to learn, it is still important that you make sure that they are consistently making this sound, and not a Long E or a short /i/. 

The IPA symbol for the Long I is /aɪ/.

1. Long I Pattern: “Magic E Words” (i_e)

As in all other long vowels, the most important Long I pattern to learn is the “Magic E” pattern. Teaching your child to identify the Long I by looking for words with Magic E is the first step in mastering this long vowel. Once they are confident with this, you can begin to work on more complicated rules and exceptions. 

Important Words with “Magic E Words” (i_e)

  1. Time
  2. Ice
  3. Mice
  4. Lime
  5. Nine
  6. Kite
  7. Hide
  8. Fire
  9. Like

Exceptions to “i_e”

  1. Some -ice words do not fit the pattern for example: Practice (spelled practice in British English) or Police (the “i” here makes a Long E sound)

2. Long I Pattern: igh

This is a common pattern to indicate a Long I, and it has very few exceptions. In “igh,” the “gh” is silent so in words like “high,” you should only hear the initial “h” and the Long I sound that follows. The “igh” pattern is a great place to start teaching children the Long I, along with the Magic E pattern. 

Important Words with “igh”

  1. High
  2. Light
  3. Right
  4. Fight
  5. Night

Exceptions to “igh”

Congratulations, there are no important exceptions to learn. 

3. Long I Pattern: y

As we learned back in the Long E vowel phonics lesson, “y” sometimes makes a Long E sound when the word has more than two syllables (baby), but it will make a Long I sound when it has one syllable (sky). This rule is fairly consistent, but it will take some time for your child to learn it. It may also be difficult to get your child used to the idea of thinking about how many syllables a word has. So, for young children, it may be best to just teach them that two or three letter words are long I, while four or more use Long E. This is not exactly accurate, but it is an easier concept to understand.

Important Words with “y” (Long I Sound)

  1. Sky
  2. My
  3. Fly
  4. Shy
  5. Why

Exceptions to “y” (Long I Sound)

  1. Some longer “-ly” words still use a Long I sound, these include: multiply, July, and apply. There are other examples of -ly words that also use a Long I sound, while others still use a Long E sound, so please be careful with these.  

4. Long I Pattern: I (Open Syllable)

If you have been following our phonics lessons, then you should be familiar with our next long vowel pattern. Like in the other lessons, Long I also has examples of long vowels due to an open syllable. Knowing the rule for why there is a long vowel in an open syllable is important, but usually, it is just easier to become familiar with which words follow this pattern. As a refresher, open syllables are syllables that end on a vowel, and this makes that vowel use a long vowel sound.  

Important Words with “i” (Open Syllable)

  1. Idea
  2. Item
  3. Pilot
  4. Final

Important Exceptions to “i” (Open Syllable)

Most single i’s that you will see will make a short /i/ sound. Be aware that these open syllable i’s make the Long I instead, and be ready to explain to your child these exceptions.  

5. Long I Pattern: i (Followed by Two Consonants)

This is a new kind of pattern for us, where a vowel followed by two consonants makes a long vowel sound. This kind of pattern works in both Long I and Long O vowels. In these cases, we will have a single “i” that is followed by two consonants. In this configuration, we will have the “i” make a Long I sound instead of the short /i/ sound. This pattern is not consistent. It will take a lot of memorization for your child to learn which words will use a short /i/ or  a Long I. 

Important Words with “i” (Followed by Two Consonants)

  1. Kind
  2. Child
  3. Mild
  4. Mind
  5. Find

Important Exceptions to “i” (Followed by Two Consonants)

  1. -ill words like still, fill, ill (all use the short /i/ sound) 
  2. Milk (short /i/)
  3. Gift (short /i/)
  4. Kick (short /i/)
  5. Brick (short /i/)
  6. Sick (short /i/)

6. Long I Pattern: ie (Long I sound)

The use of “ie” in a word is typically used when we conjugate a verb like “cry” into “cries” or “fly” into “flies.” There are only a couple of words that use “ie” as a Long I in their singular form. All of the important ones are listed below.  

Important Words with “ie”

  1. Die
  2. Lie
  3. Pie
  4. Tie
  5. Flies

Important Exceptions to “ie”

The “ie” pattern is also seen in our Long E lesson. You can take a look there to see which “ie” words make the Long E sound.

How do I Practice Long Vowel Patterns?

Once you have gone over the patterns that use Long I, it is best to practice identifying Long I vowels by reading with your child. You can do this by reading to your child and having them try to sound out individual words, or let them read to you. It all depends on what they like, and what level of English they have. For long vowel identification, reading is the best way for children to learn the patterns and to start to become familiar with common exceptions to the rules.

While reading with your child, please make sure that you discourage them from guessing words. Also, do not try to push them to read beyond their level. By taking it slow in the beginning and properly teaching them how to read using long vowel patterns and synthetic phonics, your child will improve in the long run.

More Questions

If you have questions that you would like answered, feel free to leave us a post in the comment section, or book some time with us to talk one-on-one about your concerns.

All done with Long I? Why not check out our lesson on Long O?

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