AI or AY

Contributor: Melissa LaRusso. Lesson ID: 11980

Do you like to plAY in the rAIn? Would you like to lAY on a plAIn in SpAIn? What's with all those capital letters? They all make the long /a/ sound! Have fun learning to use "digraphs" the right wAY!



learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Skill Sharpener

Lesson Plan - Get It!


Can you plainly say what vowel sound you hear in the middle of the word "rain"?

The letters "ai" make a long /a/ sound in the word "rain."

Two vowel combinations that make the long /a/ are "ai" and "ay." These vowel combinations are called long /a/ digraphs. A digraph is two letters that make one sound. Notice the word "rain" is comprised of three sounds: /r/ /ai/ /n/.

Compare the following words:

  • paint and pant

Notice both words are made using four sounds. The "ai" in "paint" makes a long /a/ sound. The a in the word "pant" makes a short vowel sound.

Watch Nessy Spelling Strategy: When To Use ai Or ay ( to learn more about the ai and ay digraph and when to use each variation:


Did you discover that ay is used at the end of a word or syllable? Read the following examples:

  • Stay
  • Ray
  • Bay
  • Tray
  • Maybe (Notice ay comes at the end of the first syllable)

If ay is used at the end of the word or syllable, when is ai used? Tell your parent or teacher.

Did you remember that ai is used in the middle of the word, as in "brain."

It may be tricky to know when to use ay when there is a suffix. A suffix is added to the end of the word. Read the following examples:

  • Play
  • Plays
  • Played

Each of the above examples has the same base word. The base word is "play." The suffixes "s" and "ed" were added on to the end of the word. This does not change the spelling of the ay.

You have just learned the rules for using ai and ay in a word. Tell your teacher when to use ai and ay, then move on to the Got It? section for more practice.

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