Pronunciation of the letter A
In Received Pronunciation (RP), the letter A/a (/eɪ/) has five major pronunciations, plus other, less common ones, sometimes in combination with other letters, and, of course, its use 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 (/ɑ:/) 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/.
 As /æ/
- before final consonants: am - and - at - bag - bat - cat - fan - ham - hand - land - man - map - sand - stand
- before double consonant or "ck": attack - battle - carry - cattle - channel - gallery - grammar - happy - jacket - traffic
- other: angry - aspect - balance - capture - damage - factor - January - manage - natural - passenger
 As /ɑ:/
- before f, s and th
- before final consonants: ask - bath - half - last - past - path - staff - task
- before double consonant: giraffe - staffer
- other: basket - father - pastor - rather
- before n: answer - can't - France - implant
- before r: are - art - car - card - carpet - dark - far - garden - large - market - park - part - scar - scarf - start
- other: calm - facade - lama - llama - palm - spa
 As /eɪ/
See main article IPA phoneme /eɪ/.
- often with final e: able - ache - age - bake - blame - brake - cake - date - escape - fake - game - gate - hake - label - lake - late - male - make - name - pale - paper - plate - sale - same - sane - shake - snake - stale - state - table - take - trade - wake - whale;
 As /ɔ:/
See main article IPA phoneme /ɔː/.
- 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
 As /ɒ/
See main article IPA phoneme /ɒ/.
- as /ɒ/: wallet - wander - want - warrant - warranty - wash - wasp - watch - what;
 As schwa
See main article schwa.
- weak forms: a - can - shall - than;
- at beginning (including many verbs): about - above - acquire - admire - afford - again - agree - alone - among - another - appeal - appear - arise - around;
- at end: Africa/African - America/American - human - legal - organ;
- as part of suffix -able: capable - likeable - probable;
- as part of suffix -ate: chocolate; private;
 As "ai"
- as /eɪ/: aid - aim - afraid - brain - chain - fail - gain - hail - page - paid - rain - snail - Spain - stage - stain - straight - train - trait - wage - wait
- as /e/: again (also /əˈɡeɪn/) - said
 As "ay"
- as /eɪ/: day - pay - play - May - say - stay - tray
- as /e/: says
 As "au"
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 "aw"
 As "ea"
See main article Pronunciation exercises: "ea".
- as /iː/: beach - bleach - each - mean - meat - peach - peak - reach - steam - teach - team - weak
- as /e/: bread - dead - head - instead
- as /eɪ/: break - great - steak
- as /ɪə/: clear - dear - ear - fear - hear - near
- as /eə/: bear - pear - wear
- as /ɜː/: early - earn - earth - heard - hearse - learn - pearl - rehearsal - rehearse - search
 As "oa"
See main article Pronunciation exercises: "oa"
- as /ɔ:/: abroad - boar - board - broad - oar - roar - soar;
- as /əʊ/: approach - boat - coach - coal - coat - coast - float - foam - goal - goat - load - loan - oats - road - roast - throat - toast
- aren't/aunt - board/bored - brake/break - grate/great - male/mail - place/plaice - plane/plain - rain/reign - sail/sale - steak/stake - tale/tail - waste/waist - Wales/whales - weak/week - weigh/way - weight/wait - weighed/wade.
 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 /ei/ 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.
 See also
- Pronunciation exercises: /ʌ/ vs /æ/
- Pronunciation of the letter E
- Pronunciation of the letter U