Pronunciation of the letter A
- So-called “short a”, IPA phoneme /æ/, as in trap, bat, batting, rapid or marry.
- So-called “long a”, IPA phoneme /eɪ/, as in face, facing or famous
- “Short” "ar" sound, phoneme /ɑː/ in Received Pronunciation, as in start, bar or barred
- “Long” "ar" sound, IPA phoneme /eə/, as in care, caring or parent
It also can be pronounced /ɑː/ as in bath and /ɔː/ as in all — plus other, less common pronunciations, sometimes in combination with other letters, and, of course, it can be used as schwa. There are some helpful rules (to be taken with the habitual pinch of salt).
It is also very much one of those cases in which teachers, whichever their preferences might be, need to point out the differences between RP (/ɑː/) and American (/æ/) pronunciations regarding, particularly with words like bath and past, while pointing out, of course, that most native British English speakers do, in fact, pronounce them /æ/.
- 1 As a single letter
- 2 Combined with another letter
- 3 Homophones
- 4 Different pronunciations in the same word
- 5 Anticipated pronunciation difficulties depending on L1
- 6 References
- 7 See also
As a single letter
See main article IPA phoneme /æ/.
At the beginning or the middle of a word
- /æ/: am - and - at - bag - bat - can - cat - fan - ham - hand - land - man - map - sand - stand
- /ɑː/. Before /f, n, s/ and /θ/: ask - bath - can't - chance - class - dance - fast - France - grass - half - last - pass - past - path - staff - task
- Other: calm - palm
- /ɔː/: Before /l/: all - ball - call - fall - hall - salt - small - tall
- after "w": walk - wall
- other: chalk - talk
The following words have "a" followed by one consonant sound.
- Last syllable
- Other syllable
- /æ/ balance - damage - January - manage - natural - rapid - value
- /eɪ/: basic - capable - Danish - famous - label - nature - paper - razor - tomatoAmE
- /ɑː/: banana - tomatoBrE
- /ɒ/: equality - qualify - quality
- /ɔː/: water
- /e/: any - many - Thames
- /ə/: about - above - again - alone - among - another
The following words have "a" followed by the same duplicate consonant (or "ck").
- /æ/: channel - classic - gallery - grammar - happy - jacket - passage - passenger - programmeBrE - traffic
- /ɑː/: giraffe
- /ɒ/: wallet
- /ə/: afford - appeal - appear
The following words have "a" followed by two or more different consonant sounds.
- /æ/: anger - angry - attack - battle - capture - factor - relax
- /ɑː/: advantage - after - answer - basket - example - father - rather
- /ɔː/: almost - already - also - alter - always
- /ɒ/: quantity - wander
- /ə/. At beginning (including many verbs): acquire - admire - agree
- as part of suffix -able: capable - likeable - probable;
- /eɪ/: able - ancient - danger - stranger - table
- Derived forms: changing - pasted - pasting - tasted - tasting - wasted - wasting
At the end of a word
- /ɑː/: bra - spa
- /ə/: area - camera - comma - formula - idea - opera
- Africa - America - Argentina - Barbara - China - Colombia - Jessica - Montana - Russia
Combined with another letter
- So-called “long a”, /eɪ/: ache - age - bake - blame - brake - cake - date - escape - estimate (v.) - face - fake - game - gate - late - lake - male - make - name - pale - plate - sale - same - sane - shake - snake - state - take - trade - wake - whale
- Two consonant sounds (unusual use of magic e): change - paste - strange - taste - waste
- /ɪ/: advantage - average - garbage - image - language - manage - village
- /ə/: chocolate - estimate (n.) - private - purchase
- The word "forbade".
- The past tense of "forbid" has several variants.
- forbade /fərˈbæd, fərˈbeɪd/
- forbad /fərˈbæd/
- /eɪ/: Mae - reggae /ˈreɡeɪ/ - sundae /ˈsʌndeɪ, ˈsʌndɪ/
"ae" in words of Greek origin
In words derived from Greek via Latin "ae" is pronounced /iː/, /ɪ/, /e/ or /ə/. Alternative spellings are "æ" (as in "æstetics") in British English and "e" (as in "esthetics") in American English. Some "ae" words can only be spelled with "e" in American English (such as "hemoglobin").
- "ae" in British English
- /iː/ or /ɪ/: archaeology
- /iː/: aesthetic (also /e/) - anaesthesia or anesthesia - Caesar /ˈsiːzər/ - haemoglobinBrE - hyena or hyaena - orthopaedic or orthopedic - paediatricianBrE
- /ɪ/: Caesarean section
- /e/: aesthetic (also /iː/)
- /ə/: gynaecologistBrE
- Corresponding words in American English
- /iː/ or /ɪ/: archaeology or archeologyAmE
- /iː/: aesthetic or estheticAmE - anesthesia or anaesthesia - Caesar /ˈsiːzər/ - hemoglobinAmE - hyena or hyaena - orthopedic or orthopaedic - pediatricianAmE
- /ɪ/: CesareanAmE section or Caesarean section
- /e/: aesthetic or estheticAmE
- /ə/: gynecologistAmE
- /eɪ/: aid - aim - afraid - brain - chain - claim - detail - fail - gain - hail - main - paid - rain - raise - remain - snail - Spain - stage - stain - straight - train - trait - wait
- /e/: again (also /əˈɡeɪn/) - said
- /eɪ/: day - pay - play - May - say - stay - tray
- /e/: says
See main article Pronunciation exercises: "au".
- /ɔː/: August - author - autumn - caught - cause - daughter - taught;
- /ɒ/: Aussie - Australia - Austria;
- /ɑː/ : aunt - laugh
- /ɑː/: are - art - car - card - carpet - dark - far - garden - large - market - park - part - start
- /ɔː/: quarter - war
- area - Mary - parent - various
- With magic e: aware - care - compare - declare - prepare - rare - share - software - square - stare
- /æ/: apparent - character - charity - comparison - paragraph - parallel
- /ə/: arise - around - career - cigarette - preparation
- /æ/: barrier - carry - embarrass - marriage - marry - narrative - narrow
- /ɒ/: warrant - warranty
- /ə/: arrange - arrest - arrive
- aren't - aunt; brake - break; grate - great; male - mail; plane - plain; rain - reign; sail - sale; stake - steak; tale - tail; waste - waist; Wales - whales; way - weigh; wait - weight; wade - weighed.
Different pronunciations in the same word
- Africa/African - America/American - Australia/Australian - Austria/Austrian - average - character - language
Anticipated pronunciation difficulties depending on L1
Preconceived ideas and other interferences from L1 obviously interfere in many cases with how students perceive - and pronounce - sounds/words in English. The following sections aims to point out some of the most typical difficulties teachers and students may encounter regarding pronunciation.
Many Spanish speakers will try, instinctively, to pronounce it either as /eɪ/ or as /ʌ/ (which is quite similar, but often not quite enough, to the letter a in Spanish). This is particularly problematic for words such as want, what or water or for the schwa.
Many cognates that have /eɪ/ in English have [a] in Spanish. If the word is not common, such as "matrix" (Spanish matriz) it is very likely that Spanish speakers will try to pronounce it with *. Even some loan words are transcribed using spelling pronunciation in Spanish. For example the spelling cáterin was proposed as a transcription of "catering", but * would be more similar to the English pronunciation.
- Diccionario panhispánico de dudas, cáterin.