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Pronunciation Terms

A glossary of terms and expressions used when talking about pronunciation, with definitions
and explanations

pronunciation term definition / explanation

accent the unique speech patterns of a person or group

affricate a speech sound (consonant) that contains a stop followed by an


immediate fricative, as in the ch /ʧ/ in "chair"

air flow/airstream the flow or passage of air out of the mouth

alveolar sound formed by touching the tip of the tongue to the upper
alveolar ridge, as in /t/ or /d/

alveolar ridge the bony region at the roof and bottom of the mouth behind the
front teeth; contains the tooth sockets

approximants consonants with a partial obstruction of airflow, as in /w/ and /r/

articulation the act of making speech sounds

aspiration a small "explosion" of air when you make a sound

auditory hearing (not seeing)


pronunciation term definition / explanation

bilabial consonant sounds formed using both lips, as in /p/ or /b/

close vowel (sometimes a vowel sound that is pronounced with the tongue close to the roof
called "high" vowel) of the mouth (but not close enough to constrict the air and make
a consonant), as in /i:/ in the word "free"

consonant a speech sound made when there is complete or partial


obstruction of air in the mouth, as in /v/, /h/, /d/ (compare vowel)

clusters blended sounds put together to make a single sound

curl a position of the tongue where the tongue is shaped in a curve,


not flat

dental a consonant sound made when the tongue touches the upper
teeth, as in /t/ and /n/

dialect unique vocabulary, pronunciation and usage that is typical of a


certain group of people

diphthong a sound made by the combination of two vowel sounds in a single


syllable, as in "boy", "loud" or "wide", where the sound starts as
one vowel and moves towards another vowel

flatten a positioning of the tongue where the tongue is flat not round
pronunciation term definition / explanation

fricative a speech sound (consonant) in which air is forced to pass through


a small opening and creates friction, as in /f/ and /v/

glide/slide moving the tongue while saying a word

glottal stop the sound that is made when the vocal folds are closed very
briefly; as in the middle of the word "uh-oh" (common in American
English)

gum the tissue around the base of the teeth

hard palate hard part of the roof of the mouth

intonation change in pitch of a sentence, up and down; the music or rhythm


of speech

labiodental sounds that are made with the lower lip and upper teeth, as in /f/
and /v/

larynx the hollow, muscular organ in the throat that holds the vocal
chords; the voice box

lateral a speech sound that is made by touching the tongue to the middle
of the alveolar ridge, allowing air to pass on both sides

lengthen sound make the duration of the sound longer


pronunciation term definition / explanation

linking the joining of words when speaking, as in "Ca-nI-ha-va-bi-to-


fegg?" (Can I have a bit of egg?)

lips spread lips are open slightly and pulled back

lower bottom of mouth

minimal pairs two words that differ only in terms of one sound, as in "cat and
bat" OR "fine and vine"

monophthong a single vowel sound that does not change in auditory quality; also
called a "pure vowel"

nasal consonants consonant sounds made by pushing air through the nose, as in
/m/, /n/ and /ŋ/

non-pulmonic when the air comes from a source other than the lungs

obstruction a blockage of air flow

open vowel (also called a vowel that is produced with the tongue far down from the roof of
"low" vowel) the mouth, as in the /a:/ sound in "far"

palatal a sound that is made when the tongue is near or touching the roof
of the mouth
palate the roof of the mouth

phoneme an individual speech sound

phonetic alphabet an alphabet that represents the sounds of speech

phonetic transcription a form of notation that uses symbols to identify the individual
sounds (phonemes) in a word

plosive a consonant sound produced when there is a complete obstruction


of air followed by its sudden release, as in the /p/ of "pot"

pitch amount of highness or lowness of a sound or speech

postalveolar a consonant sound made with the tip of the tongue slightly back
from the alveolar ridge, as in /ʃ/ in "shut"

pressed lips top and bottom lips touching

protruded lips rounded lips, pushed out

pulmonic a sound that is made using the airstream directly from the lungs

raised higher than the neutral position


reduction the natural shortening of sounds when speaking (e.g. "going to"
reduced to "gonna")

rhotic a variety or dialect of English in which "r" is pronounced before a


consonant (as in "hard") and at the end of words (as in "car");
Midwestern American English, for example, is "rhotic"

roof the inside top part of the mouth

rounded lips lips formed into the shape of a circle

rounded vowel a vowel made with rounded lips

sentence stress the placement of emphasis on specific words within a sentence or


phrase

shorten sound make the duration of a sound shorter

soft palate soft part of the roof of the mouth

sonorant sounds that are made when air is impeded only slightly, as in /m/,
/n/

stop (stop consonant) a consonant sound that is produced when the airflow is
(temporarily) stopped entirely by the lips or tongue, as in /p/
syllable a single unit of sound that creates one beat in a word; the word
"coffee" has two syllables (cof-fee)

syllable nucleus the central part of a syllable, usually a vowel

tap touch quickly

tone the emotion that is conveyed through the sound of speech (e.g.
anger or sadness)

tongue muscular tissue in the mouth used for tasting and articulating

tooth ridge the hard area directly behind the top front teeth

trill a vibrating sound made with a flapping tongue, as in the rolled "r"
sound made when people roll their r's

upper top of mouth

velar of a sound that is made with the back of the tongue near the soft
palate, as in the the /ŋ/ in "sing"

velum a soft membrane on the roof of the mouth (also called "soft
palate")

vocal chords (AmE two muscles inside the larynx that vibrate and create the voice
cords)
vocal tract the entire apparatus that produces voice, starting in the lungs and
ending at the lips and nostrils (openings of the mouth and nose)

voiced of a sound made with the vocal chords (voice box) vibrating

voiceless/unvoiced of a sound made without the vocal chords (voice box) vibrating

vowel a speech sound made when air is free to pass through the mouth
with little or no obstruction, as in sounds made with the letters a,
e, i, o, u, and sometimes y (compare consonant)

vowel backness position of the tongue in relation to the back of the mouth when
making a vowel sound (positions include front, near-front, centre,
near-back, back)

vowel height distance between the tongue and the roof of the mouth when
pronouncing a vowel sound (IPA has 7 heights: close (highest),
near-close, mid-close, mid, open-mid, near-open, open (lowest)

word stress the placement of emphasis within a word that has more than one
syllable
What is Pronunciation?
pronunciation (noun): the way in which we pronounce a word
pronounce (verb): to make the sound of a word

"Pronunciation" refers to the way in which we


make the sound of words.

To pronounce words, we push air from our lungs up through our throat and vocal chords,
through our mouth, past our tongue and out between our teeth and lips. (Sometimes air
also travels through our nose.)

To change the sound that we are making, we mainly use the muscles of our mouth, tongue
and lips to control the shape of our mouth and the flow of air. If we can control the shape of
our mouth and the flow of air correctly, then our pronunciation is clearer and other people
understand us more easily.

Speakers of different languages tend to develop different muscles of the mouth for
pronunciation. When we speak a foreign language, our muscles may not be well developed
for that language, and we will find pronunciation more difficult. By practising the foreign
language pronunciation, our muscles develop and pronunciation improves.

As well as creating correct vowel and consonant sounds using the muscles of our mouth,
tongue and lips, there are other important aspects of pronunciation, including:

 word stress - emphasis on certain syllables in a word

 sentence stress - emphasis on certain words in a sentence

 linking - joining certain words together

 intonation - the rise and fall of our voice as we speak

Note the spelling of the noun pronunciation and the verb pronounce.
Word Stress
Word stress is your magic key to understanding spoken English. Native speakers of English
use word stress naturally. Word stress is so natural for them that they don't even know they
use it. Non-native speakers who speak English to native speakers without using word stress,
encounter two problems:

1. They find it difficult to understand native speakers, especially those speaking fast.

2. The native speakers may find it difficult to understand them.

3. Understanding Syllables
4. syllable (noun): a unit of pronunciation that has one vowel sound, and may or may
not be surrounded by consonants. A syllable can form a whole word or part of a
word. For example, there is one syllable in cat, two syllables in monkey and three
syllables in elephant.
5. To understand word stress, it helps to understand syllables.
Every word is made from syllables.
Each word has one, two, three or more syllables.

word number of syllables

dog dog 1

green green 1

quite quite 1

quiet qui-et 2

orange or-ange 2

table ta-ble 2
word number of syllables

expensive ex-pen-sive 3

interesting in-ter-est-ing 4

unrealistic un-rea-lis-tic 4

unexceptional un-ex-cep-tio-nal 5

6. Notice that (with a few rare exceptions) every syllable contains at least one vowel
(a, e, i, o or u) or vowel sound.

What is Word Stress?


In English, we do not say each syllable with the same force or strength. In one word, we
accentuate ONE syllable. We say one syllable very loudly (big, strong, important) and all
the other syllables very quietly.

Let's take 3 words: photograph, photographer and photographic. Do they sound the
same when spoken? No. Because we accentuate (stress) ONE syllable in each word. And it
is not always the same syllable. So the "shape" of each word is different.

Listen to these words. Do you hear the stressed syllable in each word?

3 syllables, stress on #1
PHO-TO-GRAPH

4 syllables, stress on #2
PHO-TO-GRAPH-ER
4 syllables, stress on #3
PHO-TO-GRAPH-IC

This happens in ALL words with 2 or more syllables: TEACHer, JaPAN, CHINa, aBOVE,
converSAtion, INteresting, imPORtant, deMAND, etCETera, etCETera, etCETera

The syllables that are not stressed are weak or small or quiet. Fluent speakers of English
listen for the STRESSED syllables, not the weak syllables. If you use word stress in your
speech, you will instantly and automatically improve your pronunciation and your
comprehension.

Try to hear the stress in individual words each time you listen to English - on the radio, or in
films for example. Your first step is to HEAR and recognise it. After that, you can USE it!

There are two very important rules about word stress:

1. One word, one stress. (One word cannot have two stresses. So if you hear two
stresses, you have heard two words, not one word.)

2. The stress is always on a vowel.

3. Why is Word Stress Important?


4. Word stress is not used in all languages. Some languages, Japanese or French for
example, pronounce each syllable with eq-ual em-pha-sis.
5. Other languages, English for example, use word stress and pro-NOUNCE DIF-fer-ent
SYL-la-bles with more or less im-POR-tance.
6. Word stress is not an optional extra that you can add to the English language if you
want. It is part of the language! Fluent English speakers use word stress to
communicate rapidly and accurately, even in difficult conditions. If, for example, you
do not hear a word clearly, you can still understand the word because of the position
of the stress.
7. Think again about the two words photograph and photographer. Now imagine
that you are speaking to somebody by telephone over a very bad line. You cannot
hear clearly. In fact, you hear only the first two syllables of one of these words,
photo... Which word is it, photograph or photographer?
8. Of course, with word stress you will know immediately which word it is because in
reality you will hear either...

9.
PHO-TO...
10. or

11.
PHO-TO...
12. So without hearing the whole word, you probably know what the word is...

13.
PHO-TO...GRAPH
14. or

15.
PHO-TO...GRAPH-ER

16. It's magic! (Of course, you also have the context of your conversation to help you.)
17. This is a simple example of how word stress helps us understand spoken English–
especially rapid spoken English. There are many, many other examples, because we
use word stress all the time, without thinking about it.

18. Where do I Put Word Stress?


19. There are some word stress rules about which syllable to stress. But...the rules are
rather complicated! Probably the best way to learn is from experience. Listen
carefully to spoken English and try to develop a feeling for the "music" of the
language.
20. When you learn a new word, you should also learn its stress pattern. If you keep a
vocabulary book, make a note to show which syllable is stressed. If you do not know,
you can look in a dictionary. All dictionaries give the phonetic spelling of a word. This
is where they show which syllable is stressed, usually with an apostrophe (') just
before or just after the stressed syllable. (The notes in the dictionary will explain
the system used.)
21. Look at (and listen to) this example for the word plastic. There are two syllables and
the first syllable is stressed.

22.
PLAS-TIC

phonetic spelling for plastic

dictionary A dictionary B

/plæs' tIk/ /'plæs tIk/

23. Notice that dictionary A uses a different system to dictionary B to show which
syllable is stressed. Of course, it's the same word (plastic), and the stress is the
same (the first syllable). But dictionary A puts an apostrophe after the stressed
syllable, and dictionary B puts an apostrophe before the stressed syllable. You need
to check your dictionary's notes to know which system it uses.

Word Stress Rules


There are two very simple rules about word stress:

1. One word has only one stress. (One word cannot have two stresses. If you hear
two stresses, you hear two words. Two stresses cannot be one word. It is true that
there can be a "secondary" stress in some words. But a secondary stress is much
smaller than the main [primary] stress, and is only used in long words.)

2. We can only stress vowels, not consonants.

Here are some more, rather complicated, rules that can help you understand where to put
the stress. But do not rely on them too much, because there are many exceptions. It is
better to try to "feel" the music of the language and to add the stress naturally.

A. Stress on first syllable

rule example

Most 2-syllable nouns PRESent, EXport, CHIna, TAble

Most 2-syllable adjectives PRESent, SLENder, CLEVer, HAPpy

B. Stress on last syllable

rule example

Most 2-syllable verbs preSENT, exPORT, deCIDE, beGIN


There are many two-syllable words in English whose meaning and class change with a
change in stress. The word present, for example is a two-syllable word. If we stress the
first syllable, it is a noun (gift) or an adjective (opposite of absent). But if we stress the
second syllable, it becomes a verb (to offer). More examples: the words export, import,
contract and object can all be nouns or verbs depending on whether the stress is on the
first or second syllable.

C. Stress on penultimate syllable (penultimate = second from end)

rule example

Words ending in -ic GRAPHic, geoGRAPHic, geoLOGic

Words ending in -sion and -tion teleVIsion, reveLAtion

For a few words, native English speakers don't always "agree" on where to put the stress.
For example, some people say teleVIsion and others say TELevision. Another example is:
CONtroversy and conTROversy.

D. Stress on ante-penultimate syllable (ante-penultimate = third from end)

rule example

Words ending in -cy, -ty, -phy and -gy deMOcracy, dependaBIlity, phoTOgraphy, geOLogy

Words ending in -al CRItical, geoLOGical

E. Compound words (words with two parts)

rule example

For compound nouns, the stress is on the first part BLACKbird, GREENhouse
rule example

For compound adjectives, the stress is on the second part bad-TEMpered, old-FASHioned

For compound verbs, the stress is on the second part underSTAND, overFLOW

Word Stress Quiz


This quiz will test your understanding of the word stress pages. For each question, choose
the syllable that is stressed.

(You can also print this quiz on paper.)

-- Ans.
1. Can you pass me a plastic knife?

-- Ans.
2. I want to take a photography class.

-- Ans.
3. China is the country where I was born.

-- Ans.
4. Please turn off the television before you go out.

-- Ans.
5. I can't decide which book to borrow.

-- Ans.
6. Do you understand this lesson?

-- Ans.
7. Sparky is a very happy puppy.

-- Ans.
8. It is critical that you finish today.

-- Ans.
9. My Grandpa wears an old-fashioned coat.

-- Ans.
10. There is a lot of traffic on the highway today.
Reset
Sentence Stress
Sentence stress is the music of spoken English. Like word stress, sentence stress can help
you to understand spoken English, even rapid spoken English.

Sentence stress is what gives English its rhythm or "beat". You remember that word stress
is accent on one syllable within a word. Sentence stress is accent on certain words
within a sentence.

Most sentences have two basic types of word:

 content words
Content words are the key words of a sentence. They are the important words that
carry the meaning or sense—the real content.

 structure words
Structure words are not very important words. They are small, simple words that
make the sentence correct grammatically. They give the sentence its correct form—
its structure.

If you remove the structure words from a sentence, you will probably still understand the
sentence.

If you remove the content words from a sentence, you will not understand the sentence.
The sentence has no sense or meaning.

Imagine that you receive this telegram message:

This sentence is not complete. It is not a "grammatically correct" sentence. But you
probably understand it. These 4 words communicate very well. Somebody wants you to sell
their car for them because they have gone to France. We can add a few words:

The new words do not really add any more information. But they make the message more
correct grammatically. We can add even more words to make one complete, grammatically
correct sentence. But the information is basically the same:
In our sentence, the 4 key words (sell, car, gone, France) are accentuated or stressed.

Why is this important for pronunciation? It is important because it adds "music" to the
language. It is the rhythm of the English language. It changes the speed at which we speak
(and listen to) the language. The time between each stressed word is the same.

In our sentence, there is 1 syllable between SELL and CAR and 3 syllables between CAR
and GONE. But the time (t) between SELL and CAR and between CAR and GONE is the
same. We maintain a constant beat on the stressed words. To do this, we say "my" more
slowly, and "because I've" more quickly. We change the speed of the small structure
words so that the rhythm of the key content words stays the same.

I am a proFESsional phoTOgrapher whose MAIN INterest is to TAKE SPEcial, BLACK and


WHITE PHOtographs that exHIBit ABstract MEANings in their photoGRAPHic STRUCture.

Sentence Stress Rules


The basic rules of sentence stress are:

1. content words are stressed

2. structure words are unstressed

3. the time between stressed words is always the same

The following tables can help you decide which words are content words and which words
are structure words:
Content words - stressed

words carrying the meaning example

main verbs SELL, GIVE, EMPLOY

nouns CAR, MUSIC, MARY

adjectives RED, BIG, INTERESTING

adverbs QUICKLY, LOUDLY, NEVER

negative auxiliaries DON'T, AREN'T, CAN'T

Structure words - unstressed

words for correct grammar example

pronouns he, we, they

prepositions on, at, into

articles a, an, the

conjunctions and, but, because


words for correct grammar example

auxiliary verbs do, be, have, can, must

Exceptions

The rules above are for for what is called "neutral" or normal stress. But sometimes we can
stress a word that would normally be only a structure word, for example to correct
information. Look at the following dialogue:

"They've been to Mongolia, haven't they?"


"No, THEY haven't, but WE have."

Note also that when "be" is used as a main verb, it is usually unstressed—even though as a
main verb it is also a content word.

Linking
When we say a sentence in English, we join or "link" words to each other. Because of this
linking, the words in a sentence do not always sound the same as when we say them
individually. Linking is very important in English. If you recognize and use linking, two
things will happen:

1. you will understand other people more easily

2. other people will understand you more easily

There are basically two main types of linking:

 consonant ⇔ vowel
We link words ending with a consonant sound to words beginning with a vowel sound

 vowel ⇔ vowel
We link words ending with a vowel sound to words beginning with a vowel sound

Vowels and Consonants for Linking


To understand linking, it is important to know the difference between vowel sounds and
consonant sounds. Here is a table of English vowels and consonants:
vowels a e i o u

consonants b c d f g h j k l m n p q r s t v w x y z

The table shows the letters that are vowels and consonants. But the important thing in
linking is the sound, not the letter. Often the letter and the sound are the same, but not
always.

For example, the word pay ends with:

 the consonant letter y

 the vowel sound a

Here are some more examples:

though know

ends with the letter h w

ends with the sound o o

uniform honest

begins with the letter u h

begins with the sound y o

Linking Consonant to Vowel


When a word ends in a consonant sound, we often move the consonant sound to the
beginning of the next word if it starts with a vowel sound.

For example, in the phrase turn off...

we write it like this: turn off

we say it like this: tur-noff

Remember that it's the sound that matters.

In the next example sentence, have ends with...

 the letter e (which is a vowel)

 but the sound v (which is a consonant)

So we link the ending consonant sound of have to the beginning vowel sound of the next
word a.

And in fact we have four consonant to vowel links in this sentence:

We write it like this: Can I have a bit of egg?

We say it like this: ca-ni-ha-va-bi-to-vegg?

Linking Vowel to Vowel


When one word ends with a vowel sound and the next word begins with a vowel sound, we
link the words with a sort of Y or W sound. It depends on the shape of our mouth at the
end of the first word.
Lips wide

oo
|

When the first word ends in an a, e, i vowel sound [ eɪ / i: / aɪ ], our lips are wide. Then
we insert a Y sound at the beginning of the next word:

first
word
ends
we write with we say

pay all /eɪ/ payyall

the end /i:/ theyend

lie on /aɪ/ lieyon

write They all buy at the arcade.

say theyyall buyyat theyarcade

Here are some more examples of word pairs that are linked with Y.

 lay out, may I, say it

 he ate, she is, we are

 high up, my arm, why ever


Lips round

oo
|
o

When the first word ends in an o, u vowel sound [ əʊ / u: ], our lips are round. Then we
insert a W sound at the beginning of the next word:

first
word
ends
we write with we say

go out /əʊ/ gowout

too often /u:/ toowoften

write You all go out too often.

say youwall gowout toowoften

Here are some more examples of word pairs that are linked with W.

 no other, show off, grow up

 you are, too often, throw it


Homophones
In your own language you know many words that sound the same but do not mean the
same. They are homophones (= "same sound"). In English, too, there are many
homophones, and it's important to try to learn and understand them. We use homophones
all the time, even in everyday speech. They are also a common source of humour in jokes,
and frequently occur in riddles.

These pages explain homophones and give examples with audio, and also list many
homophones by level and by type.

What are Homophones?


homophone (noun): one of two or more words with the same pronunciation but different
spellings and/or meanings (for example weak and week)

Homophones are words that have exactly the same sound (pronunciation) but different
meanings and (usually) spelling.

For example, the following two words have the same sound, but different meanings and
spelling:

hour (noun: 60 minutes)


our (possessive adjective: belonging to us)

In the next example, the two words have the same sound and spelling, but different
meanings:

bear (noun: large, heavy animal with thick fur)


bear (verb: tolerate, endure)

Usually homophones are in groups of two (our, hour), but occasionally they can be in
groups of three (to, too, two) or even more. If we take our bear example, we can add
another word to the group:

bear (noun: large, heavy animal with thick fur)


bear (verb: tolerate, endure)
bare (adjective: naked, without clothes)

Now let's hear a sentence where we have all five words with their different meanings:

Our bear cannot bear to be bare at any hour.

The word homophone is made from two combining forms:


 homo- (from the Greek word homos, meaning "same")

 -phone (from the Greek word phone, meaning "sound" or "voice")

Homophones Song
Listen to the Homophones Song as Brittunculi asks Which Witch is Which? The words
WHICH and WITCH are homophones, and HERE you HEAR them in action.

Lyrics: Which Witch is Which?

Double double toil and trouble


Fire burn and cauldron bubble
(Shakespeare)

Which witch is which?


Gotta' be careful … which witch you pick...
Hey baby, which witch is which?
If a t’s in the middle, then a nose is gonna twitch

Hey baby, which witch is which?


Gotta' be careful … which witch you pick...
Hey baby, which witch is which
If a t’s in the middle, then a nose is gonna twitch

I had a bad dream, a scary nightmare


I saw a wicked witch and I started to scream
She had a black cat, a bat and a rat
A broom and a pointed hat
It was obscene... Yeah,

Hey baby, Which witch is which?


Gotta' be careful ... which witch you pick...
Hey baby, which witch is which?
If a t’s in the middle, then a nose is gonna twitch...

I said hey baby, which witch is which?


You've gotta' be careful … which witch you pick...
Homophones List - PreIntermediate
This is a list of useful homophones for preintermediate level learners.

This list of homophones in alphabetical order is based on Standard British English. Some
words will not be homophones in all accents and varieties of English.

 ate / eight

 blew / blue

 brake / break

 cell / sell

 cent / sent

 creak / creek

 dear / deer

 feat / feet

 find / fined

 hair / hare

 heal / he’ll

 hole / whole

 made / maid

 new / knew

 oar / or

 one / won

 passed / past
 poor / pour

 shore / sure

 so / sow

 sole / soul

 stair / stare

 their / they're

 theirs / there's

 threw / through

 throne / thrown

 way / weigh

 we’d / weed

 we’ll / wheel

 which / witch

 who's / whose

 your / you’re

Homophones by Vowel Sound


One of the easiest and most effective ways to remember the pronunciation of difficult words
is to match them to words that are spelled differently but are said the same way. The list
below is organised by vowel sound to make it easy to find homophones, and to help
teachers design lessons on difficult sounds. As the correct (phonemic) symbols for the vowel
sounds might be unknown or not show up on your computer, we have used our own system
to show the vowel sounds and put them in order:
Homophones by Vowel Sound æ
/æ/ as in cat

ad, add

band, banned

cache, cash

dam, damn

lam, lamb

packed, pact

rack, wrack

rap, wrap

tacked, tact

Homophones by Vowel Sound ɑ:


/ɑ:/ as in car

ah, R

arc, ark

aunt, aren’t

baa, bah, bar

bard, barred

cast, caste

chance, chants

draft, draught

mark, marque

passed, past

ta, tar
Homophones by Vowel Sound aɪ
/aɪ/ as in my

aisle, isle, I'll

aye, eye, I

bi, buy, by, bye

bite, byte

cite, sight, site

climbs, climes

die, dye

find, fined

hi, high

knight, night

lie, lye

might, mite

mind, mined

pi, pie

pride, pried

pries, prize

right, rite, write

rise, ryes

side, sighed

sighs, size

sign, sine

sight, site
thyme, time

tide, tied

tie, Thai

tire, tyre

while, wile

whine, wine

why, Y

whys, wise

Homophones by Vowel Sound aʊ


/aʊ/ as in now

bough, bow (verb/noun)

chow, ciao

foul, fowl

hour, our

Homophones by Vowel Sound e


/e/ as in get

berry, bury

bread, bred

cell, sell

cent, scent, sent

cents, scents, sense

check, cheque

ex, X

guessed, guest
lead (noun), led

read (past tense), red

rest, wrest

wet, whet

Homophones by Vowel Sound eə


/eə/ as in hair

air, heir

bare, bear

fair, fare

flair, flare

hair, hare

mare, mayor

pair, pare, pear

stair, stare

their, there, they're

theirs, there's

ware, wear

wear, where

Homophones by Vowel Sound eɪ


/eɪ/ as in day

aid, aide

ate, eight

bail, bale

baize, bays
base, bass (= guitar)

based, baste

brake, break

chased, chaste

days, daze

faint, feint

gays, gaze

grate, great

hay, hey

lain, lane

lays, laze

made, maid

mail, male

main, Maine, mane

maize, maze

pail, pale

pain, pane

place, plaice

plaid, played

plain, plane

pray, prey

rain, reign, rein

raise, rays, raze

shake, sheik

staid, stayed
stake, steak

staid, stayed

straight, strait

tail, tale

vain, vane, vein

wade, weighed

wail, whale

waist, waste

wait, weight

waive, wave

way, weigh, whey

Homophones by Vowel Sound ɪ


/ɪ/ as in sit

billed, build

gild, gilled, guild

him, hymn

in, inn

its, it's

links, lynx

mince, mints

missed, mist

knit, nit

prince, prints

riffed, rift
ring, wring

Ôtil, till

which, witch

whit, wit

Homophones by Vowel Sound ɪə


/ɪə/ as in here

beer, bier

dear, deer

hear, here

peer, pier

sear, seer

shear, sheer

tear (= teardrop from crying), tier

Homophones by Vowel Sound i:


/i:/ as in feet

B, be, bee

beach, beech

bean, been

beat, beet

C, sea, see

cheap, cheep

feat, feet

flea, flee

freeze, frieze
genes, jeans

grease, Greece

heÕd, heed

key, quay

knead, kneed, need

leak, leek

leased, least

meat, meet, mete

P, pea, pee

peace, piece

peak, peek

pleas, please

read, reed

scene, seen

seam, seem

seas, sees, seize

steal, steel

suite, sweet

T, tea, tee

team, teem

we'd, weed

we, wee

weak, week

weave, we've
Homophones by Vowel Sound ɒ
/ɒ/ as in off

bloc, block

blond, blonde

doc, dock

knot, not

loch, lock

Homophones by Vowel Sound əʊ


/əʊ/ as in go

groan, grown

ho, hoe

hoes, hose

hole, whole

know, no

knows, nose

load, lode

loan, lone

moan, mown

mode, mowed

o, oh, owe

ode, owed

road, rode, rowed

roam, Rome

roe, row
role, roll

rose, rows

rote, wrote

sew, so, sow

sloe, slow

throne, thrown

toad, towed

toe, tow

yoke, yolk

Homophones by Vowel Sound ɔɪ


/ɔɪ/ as in joy

boy, buoy

Homophones by Vowel Sound ɔ:


/ɔ:/ as in more

awe, oar, or, ore

boar, bore

board, bored

born, borne

caught, court

caw, core

chord, cord

clause, claws

coarse, course
core, corps

flaw, floor

for, fore, four

fort, fought

gnaw, nor

hall, haul

hoarse, horse

law, lore

moor, more

morn, mourn

pause, paws

raw, roar

saw, soar, sore

shore, sure

soared, sword

sort, sought

talk, torque

taught, taut, tort

warn, worn

yore, your, you're

Homophones by Vowel Sound ʌ


/ʌ/ as in cup

bussed, bust

but, butt
done, dun

none, nun

one, won

plum, plumb

rough, ruff

some, sum

son, sun

ton, tonne

trussed, trust

Homophones by Vowel Sound ɜ:


/ɜ:/ as in her

berth, birth

curd, Kurd

earn, urn

fir, fur

heard, herd

hertz, hurts

per, purr

serf, surf

serge, surge

Homophones by Vowel Sound u:


/u:/ as in food

blew, blue

boos, booze
brews, bruise

chews, choose

chute, shoot

coo, coup

crews, cruise

crewed, crude

cue, Q, queue

dew, due

ewe, U, you, yew

few, phew

flew, flu, flue

knew, new

loot, lute

moose, mousse

root, route

shoe, shoo

threw, through

to, too, two

who's, whose

Past Simple/Participle Homophones


Studying homophones of past tense verb forms can be useful for:

 learning the pronunciation of the verbs (both the different pronunciations of –ed
endings and irregular verbs)

 being able to spot from the context whether a verb or another word is meant (eg,
when listening to the sentences "I've been here before" and "I like beans on toast")
On the following pages you will find selected lists of regular and irregular verbs in past
simple form and/or past participle form (V2 and/or V3) with corresponding homophones.

Past Simple/Participle Homophones -


Regular
By pronunciation of –ed ending:

/t/

based / baste
bussed / bust
chased / chaste
guessed / guest
leased / least
missed / mist
packed / pact
passed / past
peaked / peeked
rapped / wrapped
tacked / tact
trussed / trust

/d/

allowed / aloud
awed / oared
banned / band
barred / bard
bawled / balled
billed / build
bored / board
crewed / crude
dammed / damned
died / dyed
filled / field
fined / find
floored / flawed
mined / mind
mowed / mode
owed / ode
pealed / peeled
pedaled / peddled
played / plaid
pored / poured
prayed / preyed
pried / pride
rained / reigned / reined
raised / razed
sawed / soared
seemed / seamed:
sighed / side
soared / sword
stayed / staid
tied / tide
towed / toad / toed
waived / waved
weighed / wade
whined / wined

/ɪd/

cited / sighted / sited


kneaded / needed
rested / wrested
rooted / routed
waited / weighted

Past Simple/Participle Homophones -


Irregular
By pronunciation of vowel sound:

The verb forms below (on left) are in past simple form, past participle form, or both.

/ɑ:/

cast / caste

/e/

bred / bread

sent / cent

/eɪ/

ate / eight

made / maid

/i:/

been / bean

read / red
seen / scene

/əʊ/

sold / soled

grown / groan

mown / moan

rode / road

rose / rows

thrown / throne

wrote / rote

/ɔ:/

bore / boar

born / borne

caught / court

fought / fort

saw / sore

sought / sort

taught / taut

wore / war

worn / warn

/ʌ/

done / dun

rung / wrung

won / one
/ɜ:/

heard / herd

/u:/

blew / blue

flew / flu

knew / new

threw / through

Homophones - Plurals/3rd Person


Many books teach the pronunciation of third person "s" verb forms (gets /s/, needs /z/,
chooses /Iz/) and regular plurals (bats /s/, beds /z/, choices /Iz/), but few point out that
the rules for which of the three sounds you need are exactly the same in both cases. One
way of making them easy to remember is to match words with "s" ending to words that
sound the same. Below is a list of such words for plurals and third person split into /s/
endings and /z/ endings (sadly we found no /Iz/ endings).

Homophones with /s/ sound for plural/3rd person


apps / apse
cops / copse
flecks / flex
hurts / hertz
lacks / lax
laps / lapse
links / lynx
minks / minx
sacks / sax
tacks / tax
tucks / tux
whacks / wax

Homophones with /z/ sound for plural/3rd person


bays / baize
boos / booze
brays / braise
brews / bruise
brows / browse
chews / choose
claws / clause
cores / cause
crews / cruise
C's seas sees / seize
days / daze
does (= female deers) / doze
E's / ease
frees / freeze
greys / graze
G's / jeez
gays / gaze
gores / gauze
hoes / hose
hows / house (verb)
knows / nose
lays / laze
paws pours / pause
pleas / please
pores pours / pause
prays preys / praise
pries / prise prize
pros / prose
rays / raise raze
roads / Rhodes
roes rows / rose
ryes / rise
seas sees / seize
sighs / size
T's teas tees / tease
U's / use (verb)
wees / wheeze
whys Ys / wise

Magic E Homophones
"Magic E" is an incredibly useful spelling rule that all native speakers learn when young but
other learners of English are often unaware of. The basic version is that an E after a short
vowel sound and a single consonant makes the vowel "say its name", i.e. take the
pronunciation of that letter when you say the alphabet. This is how it works for the five
letters that are vowels:

 a in hat changes to A in hate

 e in pet changes to E in Pete

 i in bit changes to I in bite

 o in hop changes to O in hope

 u in cut changes to U in cute

Learning the homophones of words with a magic E in them can help you learn this
pronunciation and spelling rule. If you already know this rule, you can then use it to learn
the words that are homophones, eg using your knowledge of how to say "base" as a way of
remembering the difference between bass guitar (which has the same pronunciation) and
bass the fish (which is different).

Words with magic E making A say its name

ate / eight

bale / bail

base / bass (guitar)

based / baste

brake / break

chased / chaste

daze / days

gaze / gays

grate / great

lane / lain

laze / lays

made / maid

male / mail

mane / main

maze / maize

pale / pail

pane / pain

place / plaice

plane / plain

raze / rays

sale / sail

shake / sheik
stake / steak

tale / tail

vane / vein

wade / weighed

wave / waive

whale / wail

Words with magic E making E say its name

genes / jeans

mete / meet

Words with magic E making I say its name

bite / byte

cite / sight

clime / climb

fined / find

mined / mind

miner / minor

mite / might

pride / pried

prize / pries

rise / ryes

rite / right

side / sighed

sine / sign

site / sight
size / sighs

tide / tied

time / thyme

wise / whys

write / right

Words with magic E making O say its name

hose / hoes

lode / load

lone / loan

mode / mowed

nose / knows

ode / owed

pole / poll

rode / road

role / roll

rose / rows

sole / soul

throne / thrown

yoke / yolk

Words with magic E making U say its name

use / yews

muse / mews
Contraction Homophones
The following is a list of very common contractions with words that have a different spelling
and meaning but exactly the same sound (homophones).

you're / your

it's / its

we're / weir

they're / their, there

aren't / aunt

we've / weave

I'd / eyed

he'd / heed

we'd / weed

I'll / isle

you'll / yule

he'll / heel, heal

we'll / wheel

here's / hears

there's / theirs

what's / watts

who's / whose

You should be particularly careful with the spelling of the words in bold. They are often
misspelled - even by native English speakers!

Minimal Pairs
desk disk, fan van
A minimal pair is a pair of words that vary by only a single sound, usually meaning sounds
that may confuse English learners, like the /f/ and /v/ in fan and van, or the /e/ and /ɪ/ in
desk and disk

Minimal Pairs /ɪ/ and /i:/


as in sit and seat

Below is a list of words that vary only by one having the sound /ɪ/ and the other the sound
/i:/.

You can use this list to practise the sounds, or as a list of words to be careful in
pronouncing.

As indicated by the /:/ part of its symbol, /i:/ is a longer sound than /ɪ/ and pronouncing it
this way can help distinguish between the two in the pairs of words below. You will also
notice, however, that /ɪ/ does not have a dot over it, making it a different mouth position
from /i:/. The sound /i:/ is said with the mouth much more spread, something like a broad
smile. This is why we say "cheese" rather than "chiz" (or "whizz") when we take photos.

Pre-Intermediate

did deed

fill feel

fit feet

grin green

hit heat

is ease

mitt meet

slip sleep

still steal

Intermediate

bit beat

bitch beach

itch each
gin gene

grid greed

hid heed

hill he’ll

ill eel

kip keep

knit neat

lick leak

lip leap

mill meal

pick peek

piss piece

pitch peach

risen reason

shit sheet

sick seek

sin scene

sin seen

still steel

tin teen

Upper-Intermediate

bid bead

bitch beech

biz bees

chick cheek
chit cheat

cist ceased

dip deep

fist feast

fizz fees

hip heap

kid keyed

pill peel

pip peep

piss peace

sill seal

sim seem

skid skied

skim scheme

till teal

tizz teas

Advanced

bib Beeb

blip bleep

britches breeches

crick creek

din dean

finned fiend

flit fleet

gip jeep
grist greased

pit peat

sim seam

sip seep

shin sheen

skit skeet

slick sleek

slit sleet

tick teak

tit teat

tizz tease

Minimal Pairs /e/ and /ɪ/


as in desk and disk

Below is a list of words that vary only by one having the vowel sound /e/ and the other the
vowel sound /ɪ/.

You can use this list to practise the sounds, or as a list of words to be careful in
pronouncing.

Both sounds are short, with /ɪ/ being pronounced with a wider mouth, almost in a kind of
smile. This makes it much closer to the long sound /i:/ than it is to the short sound /e/.

Pre-Intermediate

belt built

fell fill

head hid

left lift

mess miss
Intermediate

bed bid

beg big

bell bill

bet bit

check chick

gem gym

hell hill

hem him

let lit

pet pit

Upper-Intermediate

bend binned

bent bint

cheque chick

deck dick

fen fin

get git

jest gist

leapt lipped

led lid

lest list

kecks kicks

kept kipped
meddle middle

messed mist

peg pig

set sit

Advanced

bless bliss

Celt kilt

clef cliff

clench clinch

crept crypt

dell dill

den din

dent dint

fetter fitter

fez fizz

fleck flick

fretter fritter

gelding gilding

heck hick

hem hymn

hep hip

hex hicks

ken kin

ketch kitsch

Med mid
phlegm flim

quell quill

Minimal Pairs /æ/ and /ʌ/


as in bat and but

Below is a list of words that vary only by one having the sound /æ/ and the other the sound
/ʌ/.

You can use this list to practise the sounds, or as a list of words to be careful in
pronouncing.

/æ/ and /ʌ/ are the two closest vowel sounds in English and so it is very difficult to hear and
pronounce the difference. In fact, in some American accents there is no distinction between
the two. It is still worth language learners working on the difference between them,
however, as there are many words that vary only by this sound.

Pre-Intermediate

bad bud

began begun

drank drunk

fan fun

hat hut

ran run

sang sung

swam swum

Intermediate

ankle uncle

back buck

badge budge

bag bug

ban bun
bank bunk

banker bunker

brash brush

cam come

crash crush

dabble double

dad dud

ham hum

hang hung

mad mud

massed must

pan pun

rang rung

rash rush

sack suck

sax sucks

stand stunned

track truck

Upper-Intermediate

bang bung

cab cub

cram crumb

dam dumb

damp dump

dram drum
fanned fund

flash flush

gnat nut

hag hug

paddle puddle

pack puck

pat putt

rag rug

sand sunned

sank sunk

scam scum

slam slum

slang slung

stack stuck

stank stunk

tang tongue

tag tug

tramps trumps

wan won

Advanced

blabber blubber

champ chump

dab dub

dank dunk

flank flunk
flax flux

gash gush

glam glum

grab grub

hanker hunker

hash hush

hatch hutch

jag jug

lag lug

mat mutt

pap pup

patter putter

rabble rubble

ram rum

sally sully

sap sup

sapper supper

scram scrum

shacks shucks

slag slug

slash slush

slat slut

stab stub

tab tub

tack tuck
tat tut

thrash thrush

Minimal Pairs /əʊ/ and /ɔ:/


as in so and saw

Below is a list of words that vary only by one having the sound /əʊ/ and the other the sound
/ɔ:/.

You can use this list to practise the sounds, or as a list of words to be careful in
pronouncing.

The sound of /əʊ/ (as in "O", "oh" and "owe") is a diphthong, meaning two vowel sounds
blended into one. You should be able to see the mouth moving from one position to the
other while making the sound, with the mouth becoming smaller and rounder. You can
emphasize and control this by holding your hand in front of your mouth and bringing the
fingers in towards each other as you move from the first part of the sound to the last part.

The sound of /ɔ:/ (as in "or" and "awe") is a single long sound. The mouth doesn't move
while making this sound, and you can pronounce it as long as you have breath.

Pre-Intermediate

boat bought

drone drawn

folk fork

know nor

mow more

note nought

poke pork

show sure

Intermediate

chose chores

close claws

doe door
dome dorm

doze doors

foal fall

foe four

go gore

know no nor

low law

moaning morning

owe or

shown shorn

snow snore

stow store

toe tore tour

tone torn

Upper-Intermediate

coast coursed

code cord

cone corn

doze doors

drone drawn

foam form

go gore

goal gall

hone horn

load lord
moan mourn

moaning morning

motor mortar

mow more

oat ought

poach porch

quote quart

sew saw

show shore sure

snow snore

tote taught

Advanced

bode bored

bow boar bore

choke chalk

close claws

coke cork

copes corpse

crow craw

doe door

goad gored

goal gall

hose whores

implode implored

joe jaw
low law lore

mole maul

node gnawed

ode awed

owed awed

scone scorn

stoke stork

stow store

tote tort

Minimal Pairs /ɒ/ and /əʊ/


as in not and note

Below is a list of words that vary only by one having the vowel sound /ɒ/ and the other the
vowel sound /əʊ/.

You can use this list to practise the sounds, or as a list of words to be careful in
pronouncing.

/ɒ/ is a short single sound made without the mouth moving. /əʊ/ is a diphthong -- a longer
sound made of two sounds -- meaning that the mouth moves during production of the
sound.

Pre-Intermediate

got goat

hop hope

on own

Intermediate

cost coast

non known

odd owed
rod road

rot wrote

sop soap

stock stoke

tossed toast

wok woke

Upper-Intermediate

block bloke

bond boned

bossed boast

clock cloak

cock coke

cod code

col coal

cop cope

god goad

jock joke

mod mode

pop pope

rob robe

rod rode

ROM roam

shod showed

smock smoke

sock soak
sod sewed

Advanced

blot bloat

bod bode

bonze bones

chock choke

cocks coax

con cone

crock croak

doss dose

dot dote

foggy fogey

glob globe

hod hoed

lob lobe

lop lope

mod mowed

mop mope

mot mote

nod node

odd ode

rot rote

slop slope

sod sowed

tock toke
tod toad

tot tote

Minimal Pairs /æ/ and /e/


as in bad and bed

Below is a list of words that vary only by one having the vowel sound /æ/ and the other the
vowel sound /e/.

You can use this list to practise the sounds, or as a list of words to be careful in
pronouncing.

If these two sounds are the same in your language, it may be difficult for you to pronounce
them differently because:

 native speakers pronounce /æ/ in several different ways

 /æ/ is quite similar to /e/

The clearest difference is that /e/ is spoken with a wider, more stretched mouth. You can
make this clear by seeing how your mouth gets wider and wider as you go from /æ/ to /e/
to /i:/.

Pre-Intermediate

and end

axe X

bag beg

had head

ham hem

jam gem

pan pen

pat pet

sad said

sat set
Intermediate

band bend

bat bet

dad dead

flash flesh

gas guess

gnat net

land lend

shall shell

spanned spend

Upper-Intermediate

axe ex

fad fed

gassed guest

manned mend

marry merry

mat met

sacks sex

sax sex

tack tech

track trek

Advanced

bland blend

cattle kettle
dab deb

flax flecks

frat fret

rabble rebel

tamp temp

tamper temper

trad tread

vat vet

Minimal Pairs /ɑ:/ and /ɜ:/


as in fast and first

Below is a list of words that vary only by one having the vowel sound /ɑ:/ and the other the
vowel sound /ɜ:/.

You can use this list to practise the sounds, or as a list of words to be careful in
pronouncing.

Both sounds are long single sounds but the mouth position is different, with /ɑ:/ having a
much wider open mouth position. This is why your doctor asks you to say this sound to
show him or her inside your mouth. /ɜ:/ is much more like the sound people make when
they are disgusted.

Pre-Intermediate

bath berth

far fir

ha her

hard heard

heart hurt

pass purse

Intermediate

bath birth
bard bird

car cur

card curd

far fur

farm firm

guard gird

hard herd

Pa per

Upper-Intermediate

bar burr

barn burn

card Kurd

cart curt

carve curve

dart dirt

par purr

park perk

part pert

sharper Sherpa

star stir

Advanced

arc irk

barbs burbs

blah blur
carbs curbs

harpies herpes

parched perched

parp perp

quark quirk

sarge surge

shark shirk

tarps turps

Minimal Pairs /b/ and /v/


as in berry and very

Below is a list of words that vary only by one having the sound /b/ and the other the sound
/v/.

You can use this list to practise the sounds, or as a list of words to be careful in
pronouncing.

/b/ has the same mouth position as /p/, but using your voice. Try saying /p/ and then
holding your neck to make sure that your voice is being used when you say /b/. There
should be a sudden release of air as you say the sound, meaning that it is impossible to
extend it.

/v/ has the same mouth shape as /f/, but using your voice. Put your top teeth on your
bottom lip. It is possible to extend this sound for as long as you like.

If you are practising on your own, try saying both words and making sure your
pronunciation of each is different, for example by looking at your mouth shape in the
mirror.

Pre-Intermediate

ban van

bat vat

beer veer

boat vote

bowl vole
serb serve

Intermediate

bars vase

best vest

bet vet

bow (v/n) vow

bowels vowels

gibbon given

Upper-Intermediate

bale veil

bent vent

bury very

bow (v/n) vow

Advanced

bane vein

bat vat

beer veer

bid vid

bile vile

biz viz

bolt volt

bowels vowels

bowl vole

broom vroom
curb curve

dribble drivel

dub dove

fibre fiver

gibbon given

jibe jive

lobes loaves

rebel revel

verb verve

Minimal Pairs /b/ and /p/


as in buy and pie

Below is a list of words that vary only by one having the sound /b/ and the other the sound
/p/.

You can use this list to practise the sounds, or as a list of words to be careful in
pronouncing.

The main difference between /b/ and /p/ is that /b/ is a voiced sound, whereas /p/ is just
produced by the puff of air. Also, /b/ is pronounced with less air released than /p/, and this
can sometimes be a more useful distinction as it is difficult to feel the vocal cords vibrating
when making the /b/ sound.

Pre-Intermediate

bay pay

bear pair

bet pet

bill pill

bin pin

bore poor

bought port
cub cup

Intermediate

band panned

base pace

bat pat

bear pear

beer pier

belt pelt

berry perry

bit pit

blade played

bland planned

blank plank

blaze plays

bored pawed

braise prays

bride pride

bull pull

but putt

butter putter

lib lip

pub pup

robe rope

tab tap
Upper-Intermediate

banned panned

bare pare

beak peak

beat peat

bee pee

bitch pitch

bleed plead

blot plot

board pawed

bore pour

braise praise

breast pressed

burr per

cab cap

rib rip

Advanced

bah par

batty patty

bead peed

beak peek

beep peep

beet peat

bi pi
bier peer

blade plaid

blaster plaster

bleat pleat

bloom plume

blunder plunder

blush plush

boar paw

boar pour

boo poo

braise preys

brat prat

brawn prawn

breech preach

brick prick

brig prig

brim prim

burr purr

butt putt

tribe tripe

Minimal Pairs /n/ and /ŋ/


as in thin and thing

Below is a list of words that vary only by one having the sound /n/ and the other having the
sound /ŋ/.
You can use this list to practise the sounds, or as a list of words to be careful in
pronouncing.

Both /n/ and /ŋ/ are pronounced with air coming through your nose, with you blocking the
air in your mouth with the front of your tongue for /n/ and the back of your tongue for /ŋ/.

Pre-Intermediate

band banged

hand hanged

sin sing

sun sung

win wing

wind winged

Intermediate

done dung

fan fang

gone gong

kin king

ran rang

ton tongue

Upper-Intermediate

ban bang

banned banged

pan pang

pin ping

tin ting
Advanced

bonze bongs

bun bung

chin ching

clan clang

din ding

don dong

dun dung

hun hung

pond ponged

stun stung

tan tang

Minimal Pairs /l/ and /r/


as in alive and arrive

Below is a list of words that vary only by one having the sound /r/ and the other the sound
/l/.

You can use this list to practise the sounds, or as a list of words to be careful in
pronouncing.

/l/ is pronounced with a large flap of the tongue. The best way to make it clear that you
aren’t pronouncing /r/ is to bend your tongue as far back as you can in your mouth, and
flick it forward as you say /l/. (You can help control your tongue by holding one hand next
to your mouth with your fingers in the same position as your tongue, and flick your fingers
at the same time as your tongue.)

/r/ is pronounced many different ways in various English-speaking countries and regions, so
it is not particularly useful to ask students to base their pronunciation on what native
speakers do with their mouths. As making a distinction is the most important thing, it is
often better to exaggerate the differences between the two sounds. These descriptions are
therefore meant to be useful for students rather than explanations of usual pronunciations.

/r/ is totally unlike /l/ for English speakers. In fact, some people pronounce it much more
like /w/. The best way of making the distinction is try to move your tongue as little as
possible when making the sound. (You can use your hand to help in the same way as
suggested with /l/, but this time keeping your hand still. It can also help to start with your
top teeth just touching the back of your bottom lip.)

Pre-Intermediate

collect correct

glamour grammar

glass grass

lace race

lane rain

law raw

lead read

leader reader

led red

lighter writer

load road

lock rock

locker rocker

lot rot

play pray

Intermediate

belly berry

blew brew

blue brew

blush brush

clash crash

clown crown
flee free

glow grow

lack rack

lamb ram

lamp ramp

lane rain

late rate

laze raise

lead read

lice rice

lied ride

lies rise

lip rip

list wrist

locket rocket

loom room

lows rose

luck ruck

lush rush

pilot pirate

Upper Intermediate

belly berry

blight bright

blues bruise

blush brush
fleas freeze

flee free

flees freeze

laid raid

lair rare

lake rake

lamp ramp

lap wrap

late rate

lather rather

lay ray

lead red

leech reach

leer rear

lentil rental

lid rid

lob rob

loot root

lot rot

loyal royal

play pray

Advanced

blacken bracken

blight bright

blew brew
clash crash

flea free

fleas freeze

gland grand

glow grow

jelly jerry

lace race

lack rack

lag rag

lagging ragging

lair rare

lake rake

lamb ram

lank rank

lash rash

lather rather

law raw

laze raze

lead reed

leek reek

leap reap

leech reach

leer rear

lib rib

lice rice
lick rick

light rite

limb rim

lime rhyme

link rink

lit writ

loam roam

loaves roves

lob rob

lobe robe

look rook

loom room

lute route

lope rope

lout rout

lubber rubber

luck ruck

lug rug

lump rump

lung rung

lush rush

lust rust

splat sprat

splint sprint
Minimal Pairs /ʧ/ and /t/
as in catch and cat

Below is a list of words that vary only by one having the sound /ʧ/ and the other the sound
/t/.

You can use this list to practise the sounds, or as a list of words to be careful in
pronouncing.

/t/ is pronounced by putting the tip of your tongue against the top of your mouth just
behind your top teeth and pulling it down, making the "tut tut" sound you make when you
disapprove of something. The tongue and mouth positions are the same as when you
pronounce /d/, but with /t/ the voice is not used and you release more air.

/ʧ/ is pronounced without your tongue moving and with more air released than with /t/. It is
similar to the sound of a sneeze, and the air released should be able to move a piece of
paper or be felt on your hand five centimetres in front of your mouth. It is most similar to
the sound /ʤ/, but again without the voice and with more air released.

Pre-Intermediate

beach beat

cheese tease

chest test

chew two

child tiled

chip tip

choose twos

chose toes

coach coat

each eat

hatch hat

match mat

starch start

torch taught
Intermediate

bench bent

chair tear

chew too

chill till

chime time

chin tin

chop top

chore tour

churn turn

itch it

much mutt

notch not

peach peat

rich writ

roach wrote

teach teat

touch tut

which wit

Upper-Intermediate

arch art

batch bat

belch belt

bitch bit
chap tap

chart tart

chat tat

cheat teat

cheek teak

cheer tear

chick tick

chore tore

hitch hit

hunch hunt

march mart

patch pat

parch part

pitch pit

porch port

punch punt

Scotch Scot

witch wit

wrench rent

Advanced

beech beet

bitchy bitty

bleach bleat

blotch blot

botch bot
catchy catty

char tar

chide tide

chirps turps

chit tit

choke toke

chubby tubby

chuffed tuft

chug tug

flinch flint

hooch hoot

hutch hut

kitsch kit

lynch lint

mooch moot

perch pert

pouch pout

roach rote

torch tort

twitch twit

Minimal Pairs /s/ and /ʃ/


as in sea and she

Below is a list of words that vary only by one having the sound /s/ and the other the sound
/ʃ/.
You can use this list to practise the sounds, or as a list of words to be careful in
pronouncing.

/ʃ/ is produced with a much more rounded mouth than /s/, and is the sound we make when
we want people to be quiet. If you use your voice with that mouth position, you get the
middle sound in "pleasure" and "television".

/s/ is said with the lips pulled back more, with the same mouth position as /z/ but without
using your voice.

Pre-Intermediate

boss bosh

save shave

seal she’ll

so show

sofa chauffeur

sore sure

sort short

Intermediate

cost coshed

fist fished

gas gash

plus plush

puss push

rust rushed

saw shore

seed she’d

seek chic

seen sheen

sell shell
sew show

sign shine

single shingle

sit shit

son shun

sun shun

Upper-Intermediate

ass ash

crass crash

crust crushed

mass mash

mess mesh

sack shack

said shed

sake shake

sale shale

same shame

sank shank

scene sheen

seep sheep

seize she’s

sigh shy

sin shin

sip ship

sop shop
sue shoe

Advanced

bass bash

doss dosh

gust gushed

moss mosh

sag shag

sail shale

sass sash

sawn shorn

seer sheer

sift shift

sill shill

sine shine

sod shod

sot shot

sucks shucks

Minimal Pairs /f/ and /v/


as in fan and van

Below is a list of words that vary only by one having the sound /f/ and the other having /v/
in its place.

You can use this list to practise the sounds, or as a list of words to be careful in
pronouncing.

/f/ and /v/ are pronounced with the same mouth position of the top teeth biting the bottom
lip, but with /f/ pronounced with more air and no use of the voicebox.
Elementary and Pre-Intermediate

fan van

ferry very

leaf leave

off of

Intermediate

fast vast

fat vat

fee V

fine vine

foul vowel

gif give

half halve

life live (adjective)

proof prove

safe save

Upper-Intermediate

belief believe

fail veil

fear veer

feel veal

fender vendor

grief grieve

staff starve
surf serve

Advanced

calf carve

chaff chav

duff dove

fault vault

feign vain

feign vein

fie vie

file vile

foist voiced

foal vole

fox vox

guff guv

reef reeve

serf serve

skiff skiv

strife strive

waif waive

Minimal Pairs /f/ and /h/


as in fat and hat

Below is a list of words that vary only by one having the sound /h/ and the other having the
sound /f/.

You can use this list to practise the sounds, or as a list of words to be careful in
pronouncing.
/h/ is pronounced with a puff of air from a wide open mouth so that, for example, "ha" can
be said without changing your mouth position. It is similar to blowing steam onto your
glasses so you can clean them and a bit like a sigh.

/f/ is pronounced with a much smaller mouth than /h/, with the teeth near or touching the
bottom lip. This means that, unlike "ha", you have to open your mouth wider to say the
second part of the word "far". Using the same mouth position as /f/, your voice produces
the sound /v/.

Pre-Intermediate

fair hair

fall hall

far ha

fed head

feel heel

fee he

feet heat

fir her

fit hit

fizz his

funny honey

Intermediate

fail hail

farm harm

fart heart

fate hate

fear hear

fees he's

fight height
fill hill

five hive

force horse

found hound

four whore

fun Hun

phone hone

Upper-Intermediate

faced haste

fad had

fare hare

feed he’d

fell hell

fence hence

few hew

foal whole

foam home

fog hog

Advanced

fag hag

fang hang

fawn horn

fey hay

fob hob
foe hoe

foes hose

fop hop

fore haw

fowl howl

funky hunky

furl hurl

phase haze

Minimal Pairs /f/ and /θ/


as in free and three

Below is a list of words that vary only by one having the consonant sound /f/ and the other
having the consonant sound /θ/ in its place.

You can use this list to practise the sounds, or as a list of words to be careful in
pronouncing.

Both sounds are unvoiced, meaning that you can make the sound just by blowing out air
without needing to use your voice. /f/ has the same mouth position as the voiced sound /v/,
with the top teeth on the bottom lip and the tongue inside the mouth. /θ/ has the mouth
more open with the tongue between the teeth or even poking out of the mouth. You can
practise /θ/ by making sure your tongue touches a finger placed on your lips when you say
the words below.

Pre-Intermediate

deaf death

fought thought

four thaw

Intermediate

fin thin

first thirst

for thaw
fresh thresh

freeze threes

fro throw

froze throws

Upper-Intermediate

fief thief

firm Therm

fort thought

frill thrill

furred third

Advanced

duff doth

fang thang

fawn thorn

fore thaw

fret threat

frieze threes

fug thug

oaf oath

trough troth

Minimal Pairs /s/ and /θ/


as in sing and thing

Below is a list of words that vary only by one having the sound /s/ and the other the sound
/θ/.
You can use this list to practise the sounds, or as a list of words to be careful in
pronouncing.

At least while you are making a conscious effort to do so, it is fairly easy to pronounce these
two sounds differently. /θ/ is pronounced with your tongue between your teeth or even
sticking out of your mouth, and you can make sure you pronounce it clearly by putting your
finger vertically in front of your lips and checking that it gets wet when you make this
sound. /s/ is pronounced with the tongue well inside your mouth and the mouth much more
widely stretched.

Pre-Intermediate

face faith

force fourth

sick thick

sink think

sort thought

tense tenth

Intermediate

mass math

miss myth

pass path

saw thaw

seem theme

some thumb

song thong

use (n) youth

worse worth

Upper-Intermediate

gross growth
kiss kith

Norse North

race wraith

seam theme

sigh thigh

sin thin

sore thaw

sought thought

sum thumb

truce truth

Advanced

moss moth

piss pith

purse Perth

sank thank

sawn thorn

suds thuds

sump thump

symbol thimble

Minimal Pairs /ð/ and /z/


as in with and whizz

Below is a list of words that vary only by one having the sound /ð/ and the other the sound
/z/.

You can use this list to practise the sounds, or as a list of words to be careful in
pronouncing.
/ð/ is similar to the sound /θ/ in "thing" and so is also pronounced with your tongue
touching or between your teeth. It can be useful to practise by sticking your tongue right
out of your mouth. You can check if you are doing so with a mirror or by putting a finger in
front of your lips that should get moist each time. /ð/ in "that" uses your voice, which is
why it is sometimes confused with the voiced sound /z/.

/z/ is pronounced with the mouth in the same position as with /s/, but using the vocal
cords. The tongue is well inside the mouth, and it can also help to spread the lips thin and
wide to make the sound unlike /ð/.

Pre-Intermediate

then Zen

Intermediate

clothe close (v)

clothing closing

sheathe she's

teethe Ts

teethe teas

teething teasing

Upper-Intermediate

bathe bays

breathe breeze

lithe lies

loathe lows

scythe size

seethe Cs

seethe seas

Advanced

bathe baize
lathe laze

scythe sighs

soothe sues

tithe ties

Minimal Pairs /ʤ/ and /z/


as in page and pays

Below is a list of words that vary only by one having the sound /ʤ/ and the other having the
sound /z/.

You can use this list to practise the sounds, or as a list of words to be careful in
pronouncing.

/ʤ/ is an explosive sound that is like a voiced version of /ʧ/ and therefore almost like a
sneeze and so it is impossible to extend the sound for very long. /z/ is a smooth sound that
is a voiced version of /s/ and so can be extended as long as you like.

Pre-Intermediate

cage Ks

siege sees

stage stays

wage ways

wodge was

Intermediate

barge bars

change chains

charge chars

forge fours

fridge frizz

gip zip
Jew zoo

siege Cs

Upper-Intermediate

binge bins

marge Mars

rage raise

rage rays

siege seize

strange strains

tinge tins

Advanced

budge buzz

fudge fuzz

gauge gaze

gorge gauze

grange grains

gauge gays

gunge guns

jag zag

jest zest

jig zig

purge purrs

sarge SARS

singe sins
Minimal Pairs /d/ and /ʤ/
as in bad and badge

Below is a list of words that vary only by one having the sound /d/ and the other having the
sound /ʤ/.

You can use this list to practise the sounds, or as a list of words to be careful in
pronouncing.

/ʤ/ is an explosive sound that is like a voiced version of /ʧ/ and therefore quite a lot of air
is expelled from a rounded mouth. /d/ is a voiced version of /t/ and so the sound is made
with your tongue behind your top teeth.

Pre-Intermediate

deep jeep

dog jog

do Jew

door jaw

gym dim

head hedge

jam dam

paid page

Intermediate

dear jeer

dive jive

dob job

dot jot

Ds geez

jet debt

jug dug
jump dump

just dust

weighed wage

Upper-Intermediate

CAD cadge

charred charge

dale jail

day jay

deans jeans

gin din

jam damn

jig dig

junk dunk

led ledge

mid midge

raid rage

seed siege

sled sledge

wed wedge

Advanced

barred barge

bud budge

dock jock

dosh josh
doss joss

doused joust

dread dredge

ford forge

gel dell

gist dissed

gored gorge

jab dab

jangle dangle

jink dink

jinx dinks

pled pledge

purred purge

rid ridge

Minimal Pairs initial /f/ and /p/


as in fast and past

Below is a list of words that vary only by one having the initial sound /f/ and the other the
initial sound /p/.

You can use this list to practise the sounds, or as a list of words to be careful in
pronouncing.

Both of these sounds are produced with just air and no voice, but the way they are
pronounced is very different.

/p/ is producing by building up the air and pressure behind lips that are squeezed together
and then releasing it, similar to making a popping sound. This means that your mouth
moves during the production of the sound and that it is impossible to extend the sound after
your mouth is open and the air has been released.

/f/ is pronounced with your top teeth touching your bottom lip, and the sound can be
extended for as long as you like without moving your mouth just by continuing to blow
through the gap between those two parts of your mouth.
Pre-Intermediate

face pace

fan pan

fax packs

fee P

feel peel

feet peat

fig pig

fine pine

fleas please

fool pool

fought port

found pound

from prom

full pull

fun pun

Intermediate

fail pale

fair pair

far Pa

fat pat

felt pelt

fen pen

fence pence
few pew

file pile

fill pill

find pined

firm perm

first pursed

fix picks

flight plight

fly ply

fop pop

free pre

fresher pressure

fries prize

fry pry

paid fade

phase pays

Upper-Intermediate

fad pad

faint paint

fart part

fashion passion

fate pate

fear pier

ferry perry

fin pin
fit pit

flan plan

fold polled

folk poke

fond pond

four pour

fours pause

fray pray

fro pro

froze prose

fund punned

funk punk

fur per

phrase praise

Advanced

faced paste

fang pang

farce parse

feed peed

fend penned

finch pinch

flack plaque

flank plank

fled pled

flee plea
fleet pleat

flop plop

flume plume

flunk plunk

flush plush

flux plucks

foal poll

foes pose

ford poured

fox pox

frank prank

frig prig

fug pug

furl pearl

fuss pus

Minimal Pairs initial /k/ and /g/


as in came and game

Below is a list of words that vary only by one beginning with the sound /k/ and the other
beginning with the sound /g/.

You can use this list to practise the sounds, or as a list of words to be careful in
pronouncing.

/k/ and /g/ are pronounced with identical mouth positions, but /k/ is pronounced without
using the vocal chords and with more air released.

Pre-Intermediate

cave gave

clean glean
cot got

crate great

crease Greece

Intermediate

cap gap

cash gash

Co. go

coast ghost

coat goat

come gum

con gone

course gorse

crab grab

cram gram

creek Greek

crepe grape

crew grew

croup group

crow grow

curly girly

cut gut

K gay

key ghee

kill gill
Upper-Intermediate

cane gain

clad glad

clamour glamour

clue glue

cod god

crane grain

crease grease

creed greed

crime grime

krill grill

Advanced

cab gab

caf gaff

cape gape

clam glam

cob gob

coo goo

cord gored

core gore

cork gawk

corp gawp

cosh gosh

coup goo
coy goy

cramps gramps

crate grate

craven graven

craze graze

cripes gripes

crowned ground

crumble grumble

cuff guff

cull gull

cunning gunning

curd gird

cussed gust

kale gale

kilt gilt

kit git

kraut grout

Minimal Pairs final /m/ and /n/


as in am and an

Below is a list of words that vary only by one ending with the sound /m/ and the other
ending with the sound /n/.

You can use this list to practise the sounds, or as a list of words to be careful in
pronouncing.

Both sounds are produced with the air coming through your nose. With /m/ that is achieved
by closing your lips, whereas with /n/ the lips are open and your tongue touching the top of
your mouth behind your teeth blocks the air. Even students who do not find these sounds
difficult to recognise and produce at the beginning of syllables can have problems when they
are at the end of words.
Pre-Intermediate

cam can

comb cone

foam phone

home hone

mam man

meme mean

sum son

term turn

time tine

Intermediate

beam been

came cane

dime dine

game gain

gnome known

gum gun

seam scene

seem seen

spam span

sum sun

team teen

trams trans-
Upper-Intermediate

boom boon

clam clan

dorm dawn

fame feign

gram gran

same sane

scam scan

skim skin

term tern

tome tone

Advanced

beam bean

blame blain

deem dean

dim din

dumb dun

gleam glean

grim grin

sim sin

sperm spurn

teem teen

tomb 'toon

thyme tine
Minimal Pairs final /t/ and /d/
as in hat and had

Below is a list of words that vary only by one having the final sound /t/ and the other the
final sound /d/.

You can use this list to practise the sounds, or as a list of words to be careful in
pronouncing.

Partly because the pronunciation of final /t/ and initial /t/ are very different, even students
who don’t have general problems with /d/ and /t/ can have problems recognising and
pronouncing these two sounds at the end of words.

Pre-Intermediate

ant and

at add

bet bed

bought bored

cart card

eight aid

feet feed

heart hard

hit hid

hurt heard

mat mad

meant mend

neat need

not nod

plate played

sat sad
sent send

set said

sheet she’d

sight side

spent spend

state stayed

taught toured

wait weighed

Intermediate

beat bead

bent bend

bright bride

but bud

cat cad

cute queued

debt dead

fat fad

heat heed

height hide

hot hod

kit kid

meet mead

oat owed

pat pad

port poured
pot pod

quit quid

route rude

short shored

slight slide

sought sawed

tent tend

tight tied

Upper-Intermediate

bleat bleed

cot cod

fate fade

float flowed

font fond

gloat glowed

haunt horned

it id

moat mode

mount mound

plot plod

site sighed

slit slid

spite spied

stunt stunned

tint tinned
Advanced

blurt blurred

clot clod

faint feigned

goat goad

grit grid

nought gnawed

pant panned

peat peed

pert purred

plaint planed

pleat plead

punt punned

scant scanned

shunt shunned

skint skinned

skit skid

spurt spurred

stoat stowed

tart tarred

teat teed

trot trod
Homophones List - Intermediate
This is a list of useful homophones for intermediate level learners.

This list of homophones in alphabetical order is based on Standard British English. Some
words will not be homophones in all accents and varieties of English.

 allowed / aloud

 band / banned

 bare / bear

 billed / build

 boar / bore

 board / bored

 bold / bowled

 bread / bred

 bridal / bridle

 cent / scent

 cereal / serial

 chews / choose

 crews / cruise

 days / daze

 desert (v) / dessert

 dies / dyes

 fair / fare

 farther / father

 fir / fur
 flew / flu

 flour / flower

 gnus / news

 guessed / guest

 guise / guys

 hay / hey

 heal / heel

 heard / herd

 higher / hire

 I'll / isle

 knead / need

 knight / night

 knot / not

 mind / mined

 missed / mist

 nun / none

 ode / owed

 oh / owe

 pail / pale

 pairs / pears

 pause / paws

 peace / piece
 peer / pier

 pole / poll

 pore / pour

 pray / prey

 raise / rays

 rapper / wrapper

 root / route

 rose / rows

 saw / sore

 sew / sow

 sight / site

 soared / sword

 tease / tees

 tense / tents

 toad / towed

 toes / tows

 wait / weight

 war / wore

 wares / wears

 warn / worn

 weakly / weekly

 weather / whether
 weave / we’ve

Homophones List - UpperIntermediate


This is a list of useful homophones for upperintermediate level learners.

This list of homophones in alphabetical order is based on Standard British English. Some
words will not be homophones in all accents and varieties of English.

 altar / alter

 bail / bale

 bald / bawled

 ball / bawl

 base / bass

 bases / basis

 berries / buries

 bough / bow (v)

 brews / bruise

 ceiling / sealing

 cellar / seller

 chili / chilly

 cite / sight

 clause / claws

 climb / clime

 coarse / course
 coo / coup

 cue / queue

 faint / feint

 faze / phase

 few / phew

 file / phial

 flair / flare

 flaw / floor

 foul / fowl

 frays / phrase

 gel / jell

 genes / jeans

 gilled / guild

 gilt / guilt

 grade / greyed

 grate / great

 graze / greys

 groan / grown

 heard / herd

 heel / he’ll

 idle / idol

 lacks / lax
 lays / laze

 leased / least

 loch / lock

 locks / lox

 loot / lute

 mall / maul

 manner / manor

 mewl / mule

 mews / muse

 miner / minor

 moat / mote

 mode / mowed

 muscle / mussel

 paced / paste

 palate / palette

 peak / pique

 praise / prays

 pride / pried

 pries / prize

 principal / principle

 profit / prophet

 sac / sack
 sacks / sax

 scents / sense

 seamen / semen

 seas / seize

 side / sighed

 sighs / size

 sign / sine

 sink / sync

 slay / sleigh

 some / sum

 straight / strait

 suede / swayed

 suite / sweet

 sundae / Sunday

 tacks / tax

 Thai / tie

 thyme / time

 told / tolled

 tracked / tract

 troop / troupe

 trussed / trust

 tucks / tux
 yoke / yolk

Homophones List - Advanced


This is a list of useful homophones for advanced level learners.

This list of homophones in alphabetical order is based on Standard British English. Some
words will not be homophones in all accents and varieties of English.

 ail / ale

 airs / heirs

 aisle / I'll

 ascent / assent

 aural / oral

 auricle / oracle

 berth / birth

 boy / buoy

 cached / cashed

 carrot / karat

 cede / seed

 censor / sensor

 chased / chaste

 choirs / quires

 chords / cords
 chute / shoot

 coax / cokes

 cocks / cox

 coffer / cougher

 colonel / kernel

 cops / copse

 core / corps

 cygnet / signet

 cymbal / symbol

 dew / due

 done / dun

 draft / draught

 earns / urns

 ewes / use

 eyelet / islet

 gnu / knew

 halls / hauls

 heed / he’d

 hertz / hurts

 him / hymn

 hoarse / horse

 holy / wholly
 instance / instants

 intense / intents

 jewels / joules

 key / quay

 knap / nap

 knead / need

 knit / nit

 knob / nob

 lichens / likens

 licker / liquor

 lieu / loo

 links / lynx

 loon / lune

 marshal / martial

 medal / meddle

 metal / mettle

 oohs / ooze

 racks / wracks

 rapt / wrapped

 recede / reseed

 receipt / reseat

 reek / wreak
 reign / rein

 rest / wrest

 review / revue

 rex / wrecks

 ring / wring

 rite / wright

 rote / wrote

 rude / rued

 rye / wry

 taught / taut

 tear / tier

 vail / veil

 vain / vein

 variance / variants

 vial / vile

 wade / weighed

 watts / what’s

 wright / write

Phonemic Chart
This phonemic chart uses symbols from the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). IPA
symbols are useful for learning pronunciation. The symbols on this chart represent the 44
sounds used in British English speech (Received Pronunciation or RP, an educated accent
associated with but not exclusive to south-east England).
Learners and teachers may want to print a copy of this phonemic chart to keep close at
hand for reference.

Interactive Phonemic Chart


Listen to the sounds of English

Please wait a few seconds while the chart loads...

The symbols on this clickable chart represent the 44 sounds used in British English speech
(Received Pronunciation). Click on each symbol or sample word to hear. (See also: Printable
Phonemic Chart)

Monophthong vowels are arranged by mouth shape:

 left > right, lips wide > lips round

 top > bottom, jaw closed > jaw open

The first two rows of consonants are paired:

 above, voiceless

 below, voiced
Alphabet Sounds
ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
(in alphabetical order)

The letters above (↑) are in normal "alphabetical order".

But the letters below (↓) are NOT in alphabetical order. They are in "sound order". They are
grouped by sound. There are only 7 basic sounds for the whole alphabet. The letters in
each column all have the same vowel sound. Listen to the alphabet sounds as we read them
by column:
Notice that Z is known as Zed in British English and Zee in American English.
English is not Phonetic
Always remember that English is not "phonetic". That means that we do not always say a
word the same way that we spell it.

Some words can have the same spelling but different pronunciation, for example:

I like to read /ri:d/

I have read that book /red/


Some words have different spelling but the same pronunciation, for example:

I have read that book /red/

Red is my favourite colour /red/


Learn the Sounds of English
The English language may have 26 letters of the alphabet, but it has at least 44 sounds.
Knowing and recognizing those sounds will help to give you good pronunciation. Of course,
everybody knows that improving your pronunciation helps your speaking. But do you know
that improving your pronunciation also helps your listening?

What is it?
Riddles are short poems or texts that ask a question that seems difficult to answer. In her
famous riddle below, Catherine Fanshawe is talking about something—but what is it? And
why is this riddle in the EnglishClub pronunciation section? (You can find the answer here.)

Special note - this riddle uses the following contractions:


'twas = it was
'tis = it is
'twill = it will
o'er = over
e'en = even

'Twas whispered in Heaven,


'Twas muttered in Hell,
And echo caught faintly
The sound as it fell;
On the confines of Earth,
'Twas permitted to rest,
And the depth of the ocean
Its presence confessed;
'Twill be found in the sphere
When 'tis riven asunder,
Be seen in the lightning
And heard in the thunder.
'Twas allotted to man
With his earliest breath,
Attends him at birth
And awaits him at death,
Presides o'er his happiness,
Honour and health,
Is the prop of his house
And the end of his wealth.
In the heaps of the miser,
'Tis hoarded with care,
But is sure to be lost
By the prodigal heir;
It begins every hope,
Every wish it must bound,
It prays with the hermit,
With monarchs is crowned;
Without it the soldier,
The sailor may roam,
But woe to the wretch
Who expels it from home!
In the whisper of conscience
'Tis sure to be found,
Nor e'en in the whirlwind
Of passion is drowned;
'Twill soften the heart,
But though deaf to the ear,
It will make it acutely
And instantly hear.
But in short, let it rest
Like a delicate flower,
Oh, breathe on it softly,
It dies in an hour!

'Twas whispered in Heaven,


'Twas muttered in Hell,
And echo caught faintly
The sound as it fell;
On the confines of Earth,
'Twas permitted to rest,
And the depth of the ocean
Its presence confessed;
'Twill be found in the sphere
When 'tis riven asunder,
Be seen in the lightning
And heard in the thunder.
'Twas allotted to man
With his earliest breath,
Attends him at birth
And awaits him at death,
Presides o'er his happiness,
Honour and health,
Is the prop of his house
And the end of his wealth.
In the heaps of the miser,
'Tis hoarded with care,
But is sure to be lost
By the prodigal heir;
It begins every hope,
Every wish it must bound,
It prays with the hermit,
With monarchs is crowned;
Without it the soldier,
The sailor may roam,
But woe to the wretch
Who expels it from home!
In the whisper of conscience
'Tis sure to be found,
Nor e'en in the whirlwind
Of passion is drowned;
'Twill soften the heart,
But though deaf to the ear,
It will make it acutely
And instantly hear.
But in short, let it rest
Like a delicate flower,
Oh, breathe on it softly,
It dies in an hour!

Tongue-Twisters
A tongue-twister is a sequence of words that is difficult to pronounce quickly and correctly.
Even native English speakers find the tongue-twisters on this page difficult to say quickly.
Try them yourself. Try to say them as fast as possible, but correctly!

A proper copper coffee pot.

Around the rugged rocks the ragged rascals ran.

Long legged ladies last longer.

Mixed biscuits, mixed biscuits.

A box of biscuits, a box of mixed biscuits and a biscuit mixer!


Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled pepper.
Did Peter Piper pick a peck of pickled pepper?
If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled pepper,
Where's the peck of pickled pepper Peter Piper picked?

Pink lorry, yellow lorry.

Red leather, yellow leather, red leather, yellow leather.

She sells sea-shells on the sea-shore.

The sixth sick Sheik's sixth sheep is sick. Sometimes described as the hardest
tongue-twister in the English language

Swan swam over the pond,


Swim swan swim!
Swan swam back again—
Well swum swan!

Three grey geese in green fields grazing.

We surely shall see the sun shine soon.