Sounds of English
- 1 Vowels
- 2 Consonants
- 3 Accents of North American English
- 4 Accents of English
Vowels are always voiced (which means the vocal cords vibrate when the sound is made).
vaʊ əlz ər ɔːl wəz vɔɪst
Long "pure" vowels
- R, star, car, far
- father, bother US, bottle US, knowledge US
- clerk UK, bath UK, laughter UK, draught UK
- B, C, D, E, G, P, T, V, Z US
- he, she, me, we
- sea, tea, seem, feet, (-)teen, key
- apostrophe, Socrates, catastrophe /kə tæ strə fi/ ; suffix-final "y" (as in stormy, safety, slowly) is also pronounced with a shorter /i/
- 2, Q, U, W, you
- choose, use
- new, flew, grew, knew, true, blue
- to strong form, through
- 4, 40
- door, floor, shore, store (US /ɔːr/ )
- daughter, caught, thought, fought
- law, saw, lawyer /ˈlɔː jər/
- fluorine, chlorine
- sort, sword (US /ɔːr/ )
- first, third, 30, 30th
- shirt, clerk, certification, learn
- Some people sometimes pronounce words like sure & pure with this sound rather than ʃʊr, pjʊr, (myself included).
- primarily UK. various US accents substitute a low back vowel, usually /ɑ:/, but sometimes ɔ:. Short ʌ in high frequency functional words like what and of.
- what UK 1
- bottle ˈbɒ tl, throttle ˈθrɒ tl
- shot, spot, lots, of UK 1, pots, across
- knowledge ˈnɒl ɪdʒ
US 1 = ʌ in what and of, ɑ: in the other examples.
- 1, 100
- sun, but, mud, uncle
- son, won, brother, other, another, above
- flood, blood
- tough, rough, enough /ɪ nʌf/
- Look!, a good cookbook
- put, push, pull
- woman /wʊ mən/
- 6, 15, 16, 50, 60, him, this, finish, minute (n.)
- been, again
- below, behind, between, beneath, bemoan, belabor, besmirch, etc.
- women /wɪ mɪn/, electric /ɪ lek trɪk/, elegance /el ɪ ɡəns/, enough /ɪ nʌf/
- -age 1, -e(d)ge /ɪdʒ/ (village, marriage, storage, baggage, luggage, mortgage /mɔː ɡɪdʒ/, college, knowledge)
1 Exceptions include more recent borrowings from French, e.g. garage /ɡə rɑːʒ/ US /ɡær ɪdʒ/ UK, fuselage /fjuː sə lɑːʒ/, triage, montage, etc.
The precise realisation of this form varies. In South Africa the sound is closer to /e/, while in the US it is closer to /ɛ/ (le son souligné en e.g. fête, bête, lait, aime, pouvaient). Since the distinction is not considered phonemic, the standard transcription is /e/ though the sound is closer to /ɛ/ than it is to /e/ (qui est, strictu sensu, le son de fée, pourrai, pouvez, aimer).
- 7, 10, 12, F, L, M, N, S, X, zed
- health, wedding, nephew, elementary /ˌel ɪ men tri/
- says, said
- The most common vowel sound in English (also the most central vowel) (quite lax) uh... (French "euh" is very similar, but with rounded lips)
- around, about, above, across, ago, asleep, etc.
- perpetual, residual, science, electric, elegant, woman, sermon
- to weak form, them weak form, that weak form, a, the weak form
- -ous (famous, gelatinous, disastrous)
- -er (safer, cheaper, etc.)
- -able, -ible (understandable, comfortable 1, legible, incredible)
- -ate (in ADJ and N): chocolate (n.) /tʃɑː klət/, corporate (adj.), conglomerate (adj.), associate (n.), etc.
- Some transcribe the sound of the suffix -ion as /ən/, though most dictionaries simply use "syllabic" /n/. More terminology wars... :) e.g. nation, ration, consideration, fashion /fæʃ n/, etc.
1 Most commonly the first schwa is dropped entirely. kʌmf təbl / kʌmf ə təbl, cf. "comfy" :)
- bad, faster, fastest, that 1
- laughter US + parts of UK, draught US + parts of UK (fr. courant d'air)
- forbade: (hapax?)
1 As a demonstrative pronoun / determiner that is pronounced /ðæt/, as a relative pronoun, that is usually pronounced /ðət/, though it may be dropped entirely.
- A, H, J, K, 8
- they, grey
- take, plane, fate
- main, rain, paid,
- day, way, say,
- weigh, neighbour, freight
- aviation, (un)able, Asia (/eɪ ʒə/)
- I, Y, 5, 9
- rice, mice
- guide, quite quiet /kwɑɪt kwɑɪ ət/, choir /kwɑɪ ər/
- kind, mind, behind
- light, sight, sigh, height
- align, benign, sign
/əʊ / oʊ/
- O, 0, (zero)
- close, clothes /kləʊðz/, chose, chosen
- though, although, thorough /θɜː roʊ/ US /θʌ rə/ UK, borough /bɜː roʊ/ US /bʌ rə/ UK
- own, grow, known, flown
- soap, foam
- out, about, around, announce, pounce
- how, now, power, tower, town
- noisy, oil
- toys, boys
- poignant /ˈpɔɪnyənt/
- Mostly UK. North American English (NAME) is usually /er/
- there, where
- hair, pair
- share, care
- Mostly UK. North American English (NAME) is usually /ʊr/
- poor 1, tour (guide)
- sure 1, (al)lure
1 both "poor" and "sure" can be pronounced with ɔː i.e. ʃɔː, pɔː
- Mostly UK. North American English (NAME) is usually /ɪr/
- dear, near
- beer, peer, tier
Most consonants are paired: at each position one can make two sounds (one voiced, one unvoiced). For example:
|v||even Stephen||f||enough phonetics|
|dʒ||badge, joke||tʃ||batch, choke|
|g||agree||k||cake, second(s), chemistry|
- Nasal consonants — m, n, ŋ — liquids —r, l — and glides — w, j (why, yellow) — are all voiced.
- Syllabic n and l are roughly equivalent to /ən/, /əl/. (fashion, bottle)
- A "flap" /ɾ/ or /t̮/ is often used for intervocalic "t" after a stressed syllable outside of England (Australia, NZ, US, ...). The sound is made in the same place as the /d/ but with a quicker flap of the tongue (hence the name). It is voiced.
- battle ˈbæt̮l, butter bʌt̮ər, bottle ˈbɑt̮l, subtle ˈsʌt̮l, better ˈbɛt̮ər...
Accents of North American English
- Part I
- Part II
- Part III
Accents of English
- Some comparisons