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, IPA phoneme /ɑː/, 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 father 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. In Spelling patterns for the letter A 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 /æ/
- 2 As /ɑː/
- 3 As /eɪ/
- 4 As /ɔ:/
- 5 As /ɒ/
- 6 As /ə/
- 7 As /ɪ/
- 8 Spelling anomalies
- 9 Variant pronunciations
- 10 Combinations
- 11 Homophones
- 12 Different pronunciations in the same word
- 13 Anticipated pronunciation difficulties depending on L1
- 14 References
- 15 See also
- 16 External links
- before final consonants: am - and - at - back - bad - bag - bat - cat - fan - ham - hand - land - man - map - sand - stand
- before double consonant or "ck": attack - battle - carry - cattle - channel - gallery - grammar - happen - happy - jacket - passenger - traffic
- before single consonant: average - balance - damage - family - have - January - manage - national - natural - value
- other: absolutely - actually - angry - aspect - capture - contract - factor - handle - transport
See main article Phoneme /ɑː/ in Received Pronunciation.
Most words in this section are pronounced with /æ/ in General American, unless they are followed by "r".
- before f, s and th
- before final consonants: ask - bath - half - last - past - path - staff - task
- before double consonant: giraffe - staffer
- other: basket - pastor - rather
- before n: answer - can't - France - implant
- Pronounced /ɑː/ also in General American
- calm - facade - father - lama - llama - palm - spa
- before r: are - art - car - card - carpet - dark - far - garden - large - market - park - part - scar - scarf - start
See main article IPA phoneme /eɪ/.
- with magic e: ache - age - bake - blame - brake - cake - date - escape - fake - game - gate - hake - lake - late - male - make - name - pale - plate - sale - same - sane - shake - snake - stale - state - take - trade - wake - whale
- before single consonant: behaviorAmE - behaviourBrE - education - information - label - nature - paper - patient
- Other: able - ancient - arrange - change - range - strange - table
See main article IPA phoneme /ɔː/
See also Pronunciation exercises: "al"
- before final "ll": all - ball - call - fall - hall - small - tall
- before /l/: already - also - almost - always - alter - salt
- after "w": walk - wall - war - ward - water
- other: chalk - talk
See main article IPA phoneme /ɒ/.
See main article IPA phoneme /ə/.
- weak forms: a - am - can - shall - than
- at beginning
- verbs: acquire - admire - afford - agree - allow - appeal - appear - approach - arise - arrive
- nouns: accord - account - amount - appeal - approach
- other: about - above - across - again - against - ago - alone - among - another - around - available - away
- at end: Africa - African - America - American - camera - China - data - extra - human - idea - India - Indonesia - legal - local- organ - several - woman
- as part of suffix -able: capable - comfortable - likableAmE BrE - likeableBrE probable - suitable - variable
- as part of suffix -ate /ə/ or /ɪ/: chocolate - climate - fortunate - immediate - private
- other: Canada - company - organise - relative
See main article IPA phoneme /ɪ/
- average - beverage - language - leverage - percentage
- what: /wɒt, wʌtAmE/
Main article: Pronunciation exercises: "ai"
- as /eɪ/: Adelaide - afraid - aid - aim - available - brain - campaign - chain - claim - complain - contain - daily - detail - entertain - explain - fail - faith - gain - hail - Haiti - jail - mail - main - Maine - maintain - paid - pain - paint - rail - rain - raise - remain - retail - snail - Spain - stain - straight - train - trait - wait
- as /e/: again (also /əˈɡeɪn/) - said
- as /eə/: air - affair - chair - fair - hair - pair
Main article: Pronunciation exercises: "ay"
- as /eɪ/: day - pay - play - May - say - stay - tray
- as /e/: says
See main article Pronunciation exercises: "au"
- as /ɔː/: auction - August - author - autumn - caught - cause - daughter - taught;
- as /ɒ/: Aussie - austerity - Australia - Austria;
- as /ɑː/ : aunt - draught - laugh
- as /ɔː/: draw - law - raw - saw
- "awy" as /ɔːj/ or /ɔɪ/: lawyer /ˈlɔːjər, ˈlɔɪər/
- In separate syllables
- aware - award
Main article: Pronunciation exercises: "ae"
- as /iː/ or /e/: aesthetic
- as /iː/: Caesar - paediatricianBrE
- as /ə/: gynaecologistBrE
- as /eɪ/ or /iː/: sundae
- as /eə/: aerobic - aeroplaneBrE
- with magic e: aware - bare - care - compare - dare - Delaware - fare - hare - rare - scare - share - spare - square
- other: area - careful - Mary - parent - rarely - Sarah - vary
- see As /ɑː/ above.
- /ɔː/: quarter - war
- /æ/: apparent - character - charity - comparison - paragraph - parallel
- /ə/: arise - around - career - cigarette - preparation
- Main article: Pronunciation exercises: "arr"
- /æ/: barrier - carry - embarrass - marriage - marry - narrative - narrow
- /ɒ/,BrE /ɔː/AmE: warrant - warranty
- /ə/: arrange - arrest - arrive
- As /eɪ/: brake - break; grate - great; male - mail; place - plaice; plane - plain; rain - reign; sale - sail; stake - steak; tale - tail; Wales - whales; waste - waist; weigh - way; weight - wait; weighed - wade;
- As /eə/: bare - bear; stairs - stares;
- As /ɑːBrE, æAmE/: passed - past;
Only in non-rhotic accents:
- As /ɑː/: aren't - aunt
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.
- Pronunciation exercises: /ʌ/ vs /æ/
- Pronunciation exercises: "ao"
- Pronunciation exercises: "arr"
- Pronunciation exercises: "ea"
- Pronunciation exercises: "oa"