Decoding exercises: "ea"

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steak /steɪk/

e

head /hed/

eat /iːt/

IPA vowels
æ ɑː
trap father - start
e
dress face square
ɪ ɪə
kit fleece near
ɒ əʊ ɔː
lot goat taught
ʊ ʊə
foot goose mature
juː jʊə
cute cure
ʌ ə ɜː
strut comma nurse
ɔɪ
price mouth choice
IPA consonants
Normal sound: /b, d, f, g, h, k, l, m, n, p, r, s, t, v, w, z/
 ʃ  ŋ
show church sing
ʒ  j 
usual judge you
θ ð s
think that see
IPA Stress
ˈ Primary stress
hotel /həʊˈtel/
ˌ Secondary stress
understand
/ˌʌndərˈstænd/
IPA Syllabification
. nitrate /ˈnaɪ.treɪt/, night-rate /ˈnaɪt.reɪt/

Together with the article on decoding difficulties, this page sets out some common (or not...) words teachers can use to help their students become more aware of how they can sound out more correctly the different sounds corresponding to words containing "ea", mainly /iː/, /e/, /eɪ/, /ɪə/, /ɜː/ and /eə/.

Depending on their mother tongue (L1), students may have difficulty distinguishing between these two sounds. More often than not, these supposed difficulties depend more on the interference of L1 than on the actual difficulties posed by English, and many, if not most students will greatly improve their pronunciation by simply becoming aware of certain differences - together with a minimum of practice.

Don't forget that intonation, linking and stress, both for individual words and for sentence stress, are also, of course, of vital importance in speaking better English.

/iː/[edit]

  • as /iː/: beach - bead - beat - bleach - breathe - cheat - clean - cream - creature - deal - dream - each - easy - eat - feature - heal - heat - increase - jeans - lead (verb) - leader - leaf - lean - leave - meal - mean - meat - pea - peach - peak - please - reach - read - repeat - reason - reveal - scream - sea - seal - seat - steal - steam - stream - teach - team - treat - weak - weasel
  • Homophones: bean - been; beat - beet; feat - feet; heal - heel; jeans - genes; leak - leek; meat - meet; pea - pee - P; peace - piece; read - reed; sea - see - C; steal - steel; tea - tee - T; team - teem; weak - week;

/e/[edit]

  • as /e/: ahead - already - bread - breakfast - breast - breath - cleanse - dead - deaf - dealt - death - dread - dreadful - feather - head - header - health - heather - heavy - instead - jealous - lead (metal) - leapt - leather - meadow - meant - measure - pheasant - pleasant - pleasure - read (past tense and past participle) - ready - spread - steady - sweat - thread - threat - threaten - treachery - tread - treadmill - treasure - wealth - weapon - weather
  • Homophones: bred - bread; led - lead; lent - leant; red - read; whether - weather
  • Minimal pairs (only the last consonant is different): dead - debt; head - hell; sweat - swell; tread - trek;
  • These words don't rhyme: /iː/ vs /e/: bead - dread; beans - cleanse; beaten - threaten; beneath - breath; leader - header; leaf - deaf; least - breast; treat - threat;

/eɪ/[edit]

Ronald Reagan (American president) - W B Yeats (Irish writer)
  • Homophones: brake - break; grate - great; stake - steak

Others[edit]

  • /ə/: ocean
  • /ɔː/: Sean /ʃɔːn/
  • /eə/: yeah
  • /ɪ/: mileage
  • "eau" as /juː/: beauty - beautiful

Silent e + "a" as /ə/: enforceable - knowledgeable - noticeable

Two syllables

  • /iːeɪ/: create - creation
  • /iːæ/: preamble - react - reaction - Seattle
  • /iːɪ/: lineage
  • /iːə/: area, Caribbean
  • "crea" as /kərɪ/: acreage

"ear"[edit]

/ɪə/[edit]

  • as /ɪə/: appear - beard - clear - dear - ear - earring - fear - gear /gɪər/ - hear - near - rear - tear (teardrop) - year

/ɜː/[edit]

  • as /ɜː/: early - earn - earth - heard - hearse - learn - pearl - rehearsal - rehearse - search;

/eə/[edit]

  • as /eə/: bear - pear - swear - tear (verb) - wear
  • Homophones: bare - bear; pair - pear; where - wear;

Two syllables[edit]

  • /iːə/: linear - nuclear

Spelling anomalies[edit]

  • as /ɑː/: heart - hearth (the floor at the bottom of a fireplace)

Heteronyms[edit]

  • lead /liːd/ (v. guide) - /led/ (n. metal)
  • read /riːd/ (present) - /red/ (past)
  • tear /teər/ (v. damage) /tɪər/ (n. liquid)

/iː/ and /e/[edit]

Several words that are pronounced with /iː/ have a related word with /e/.

  • clean - cleanse; heal - health; please - pleasure; zeal - zealous;

Irregular verbs[edit]

Some irregular verbs and pronounced /iː/ become /e/ in the past tense. Many of them are spelt "ea".

  • deal - dealt; dream - dreamed or dreamt; eat - ate /et,BrE eɪtAmE/; lead - led; lean - leaned or leant; leap - leaped or leapt; mean - meant; read - read;

Three columns[edit]

A spelling and decoding exercise is to arrange "ea" and /e/ words in three columns[1] as in the following example.

"e" = /e/ "ea" = /e/ "ea" = /iː/
get head mean
well already leave
yes health each
help measure increase
next death reason
smell zealous zeal

Spanish L1[edit]

References[edit]

  1. The measured mom, Spelling ea words (a free lesson with printables!)

See also[edit]

External links[edit]