The /e/ vowel is spelled <e>, <ea> in threat and occcurs in the letter names F, M, N and X. The diphthong /əʊ/ is spelled in several ways including <oa>, <ow>, <ou> and <oCe>.
This is a contrast bewteen a short front vowel and a back centring diphthong and is not a problem for learners.
In the case of hold/held and its derivatives, behold, uphold and withhold, the distinction is used to signal a tense change.
Interesting pairs include:
The mean density is 3.7%. The pairs make 145 semantic contrasts, giving a loading of 61%.
abed abode ate oat attend atoned bed bode bedded boded bedding boding beds bodes beheld behold bell bole belle bole belles boles belled bold belt bolt belted bolted belting bolting belts bolts ben bone bens bones bend boned Benny bony best boast bested boasted besting boasting bests boasts bet boat bets boats betted boated betting boating better boater betters boaters bled blowed cell Seoul cell soul cells souls cellar solar Celt colt Celts colts check choke checked choked checking choking checks chokes cheque choke cheques chokes Czech choke Czechs chokes checker choker checkers chokers cleanse clones clever clover Cres crows dealt dolt debt dote debts dotes dell dole dells doles dent don't dep dope Des does dregs drogues Ed ode elder older eldest oldest end owned ever over F oaf F's oafs fell foal felled foaled felling foaling fells foals fem foam fen phone fens phones fend phoned fez foes fled flowed geld gold gen Joan get goat gets goats guessed ghost guest ghost guests ghosts head hoed hecks hoax hex hoax held hold hell hole hells holes hell whole hells wholes hem home hemmed homed hemming homing hems homes hen hone hens hones hep Hope intend intoned Jenny Joanie ken Colne ken cone kenned coned kenning coning kens cones Kenny coney kept coped ketch coach ketches coaches lead load leaded loaded leading loading leapt loped left loafed Len loan lend loaned lens loans Les lows M ohm M's ohms Med mode medal modal medals modals meddle modal meddles modals melt moult melted moulted melting moulting melts moults men moan mend moaned messed most Met moat N own N's owns Ned node Nell knoll net note nets notes netted noted netting noting peck poke pecked poked pecking poking pecks pokes pecker poker peckers pokers pen pone pens pones penny pony pennies ponies pep Pope peps Popes peppery popery pest post pests posts pester poster pesters posters Pres pros read road read rode red road reds roads red rode Rennes roan rep rope reps ropes res Rose rest roast rested roasted resting roasting rests roasts ret rote retch roach retches roaches rev rove revs roves revved roved revving roving safety-belt safety-bolt safety-belts safety-bolts said sewed says sews sec soak secs soaks sex soaks sect soaked sell soul sells souls Sept soaped shed shewed shell shoal shelled shoaled shelling shoaling shells shoals skep scope sled slowed slept sloped spec spoke specks spokes sped Spode stead stowed Sten Stone stet stoat Steyning stoning tech toque techs toques Ted toad Teds toads teddy toady teddies toadies telling tolling ten tone tens tones tend toned test toast tested toasted testing toasting tests toasts threat throat threats throats upheld uphold veld volt vet vote vets votes vetted voted vetting voting wed woad weld wold welds wolds went won't withheld withhold wren roan wrens roans wretch roach wretches roaches X oaks Yemen yeoman Zen zoneGeographical: Outside English-speaking countries, most visitors are from Hong Kong, Yemen, Vietnam, Estonia, Saudi Arabia and Spain. Average 4 visitors per month.
John Higgins, Shaftesbury, January 2011