How to Say 'l-i-v-e'

22 March 2024

Hello! This week on Ask a Teacher, we answer a question from Lola.



I'm Lola from Madrid.

My question is about the pronunciation of the word "live". Sometimes the pronunciation is "liv" and others "laiv." The same with the word "lives." Why?

Thank you very much.


Thank you for writing, Lola. This is such a good question!

"Live" is an example of a heteronym, or words that have the same spelling but different pronunciations and meanings.

There are nearly 100 heteronyms in English. But let's get to your question about the word spelled l-i-v-e today.

It can be either an adjective, an adverb, or a verb.

When it is used as an adjective or adverb, we use the /aɪ/ sound, like "laiv."

I love live music.

Are you watching the game live?

When it is used as a verb, we use the /ɪ/ sound, like "liv."

Where do you live?

We live just outside the city.

As for the word spelled l-i-v-e-s, it can be either a plural noun (from the singular "life") or third person singular verb.

When it is a plural noun, we use the /aɪ/ sound:

Cats have nine lives.

When it is used as third person singular, we use the /ɪ/ sound.

She lives with her mother.

So, in order to know which pronunciation to use for l-i-v-e and -s, you want to look carefully at how it is used in a sentence.

Please let us know if this explanation has helped you, Lola.

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I'm Gena Bennett.

Gena Bennett wrote this lesson for VOA Learning English.


Words in This Story

spellingn. the correct order of letters to form a word

pronunciationn. the way a word is spoken