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. In Pronunciation of the letter A by spelling patterns 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 schwa
- 7 Others
- 8 Combinations
- 9 Homophones
- 10 Different pronunciations in the same word
- 11 Anticipated pronunciation difficulties depending on L1
- 12 References
- 13 See also
- 14 External links
- 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
See main article IPA phoneme /ɑː/.
- 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
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;
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
See main article IPA phoneme /ɒ/.
- as /ɒ/: wallet - wander - want - warrant - warranty - wash - wasp - watch - what;
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 /eɪ/: aid - aim - afraid - brain - chain - claim - detail - fail - gain - hail - main - paid - rain - raise - remain - snail - Spain - stage - stain - straight - train - trait - wait
- as /e/: again (also /əˈɡeɪn/) - said
- 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
- aren't/aunt - brake/break - grate/great - male/mail - place/plaice - plane/plain - rain/reign - sail/sale - steak/stake - tale/tail - waste/waist - Wales/whales - 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 /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: "ea"
- Pronunciation exercises: "oa"