How to pronounce ‘OK’

O.K. okay, ok. Overused by many speakers and meaning anything from “yes” to “average”, “listen” to “really?”. It all depends on when you say it and how you say it. Sometimes you stress the ‘O’, others the ‘K’, sometimes it has rising intonation, others falling. In this article we’ll look at how to say it and 7 common uses, OK?

7 Uses of OK

The intonation patterns from the recordings are shown by number in brackets – you can see descriptions at the bottom of this page in ‘OK Intonation’.

1. Acceptance or Agreement

Would you like to see a film this evening?
OK. (3,2,1)

2. Realisation

Try turning the handle the other way, it will open then.
OK. (4)

3. Continuation

I have something to tell you.
OK. (2)

4. Introduce a new topic.

OK, can everyone look at the screen. (1)

5. Doubt

I’m going to become a pronunciation teacher!
OK? (5)

6. Tag Question

You’re not going out, okay? (2)

7. Adjective of medium quality.

How was the film?
It was OK. (2,1,3)

OK Intonation

OK can be said with falling, rising or fall-rising intonation. The stress can go on the ‘O’ or the ‘K’ – listen to it said in each way (the intonation arrows appear before the main stress, so each one is said twice):

1. Falling: O↘K  ↘OK

2. Rising: O↗K  ↗OK

3. Fall-rising: O↘↗K  ↘↗OK

There are also longer versions of OK:

4. Long rise: O_↗K

5. Long fall: O_↘K

OK Stress

The stress in OK can be on the first or second syllable. Normally if it is at the end of a sentence/unit of speech, then the stress is on the ‘K’ and if it is the first stress in the unit, the stress will shift to the ‘O’.

The ˈfilm was OˈK
It was an ˈOK ˈfilm.

OK Pronunciation

Normally ‘OK’ is pronounced /ˌəʊ ˈkeɪ/. The ‘O’ can be pronounced as a weak schwa in fast connected speech /ə ˈkeɪ/.

/ˌəʊ ˈkeɪ/  /ə ˈkeɪ/