- So-called “long a”, IPA phoneme /eɪ/, as in face, facing or famous
- Long "ar" monophthong (short vowel spelling), IPA phoneme /ɑː/, as in start, bar or barred
- Long "ar" diphthong (long vowel spelling), IPA phoneme /eə/, as in square, care, caring or parent
It also can be pronounced /ɑː/BrE AmE 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).
Distinctions by dialect[edit | edit source]
Teaching the letter A is 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 words like bath and ask, while pointing out, of course, that most native British English speakers do, in fact, pronounce them /æ/. When teaching American English pronunciation the Mary-marry-merry merger can be explained.
|Most American dialects (Mary-marry merger)||/æ/||/æ/||/ɑː/||/ɑː/||/e/||/e/|
As /æ/[edit | edit source]
- 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
As /ɑː/[edit | edit source]
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 - koala - lama - llama - nuance - palm - spa
- before r: are - art - car - card - carpet - dark - far - garden - large - market - park - part - scar - scarf - start
As /eɪ/[edit | edit source]
- 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 - fragrance/ˈfreɪɡrəns/ - range - strange - table
As /ɔ:/[edit | edit source]
See main article IPA phoneme /ɔː/
See also Decoding 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
As /ɒ/[edit | edit source]
See main article IPA phoneme /ɒ/.
- as /ɒ/: quality - restaurant, wander, BrE wasp, watch ,
- as /ɒ/,BrE /ɔː/AmE: wallet, want, warrant, warranty, wash
As /ə/[edit | edit source]
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
- as part of ative: tentative - alternative - imperative - conservative
- other: Canada - company - organise - relative
As /ɪ/[edit | edit source]
See main article IPA phoneme /ɪ/
- furnace - octave - orange - spinach
- ending in -age: advantage - average - beverage - image - language - manage - percentage - village
As /ɪ/ or /ə/[edit | edit source]
The words in this section appear with /ɪ/ in some dictionaries and with /ə/ in others.
- accessible - character - chocolate - extravagant - indiscriminate - massacre - obstacle - receptacle
Silent "a"[edit | edit source]
- automatically, basically, dramatically, logically, romantically, specifically, typically
- varisyllabic words: Barbara, boundary, library,BrE Margaret, separate
- only in British English: military, ordinary, secondary, secretary, voluntary
Spelling anomalies[edit | edit source]
- as /e/: any - many - Thames
- as /iː/: Israel
- as /ʌ/: wasAmE
- So-called long sound with short sound spelling, as /eɪ/: bass (music)
Variant pronunciations[edit | edit source]
Combinations[edit | edit source]
"ai"[edit | edit source]
Main article: Decoding 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
"ay"[edit | edit source]
Main article: Decoding exercises: "ay"
- as /eɪ/: day - pay - play - May - say - stay - tray
- as /e/: says
"au"[edit | edit source]
See main article Decoding exercises: "au"
- as /ɔː/: auction - August - author - autumn - caught - cause - daughter - taught;
- as /ɒ/: Aussie - austerity - Australia - Austria;
- as /ɑː/ : aunt - draught - laugh
"aw"[edit | edit source]
- as /ɔː/: draw - law - raw - saw
- "awy" as /ɔːj/ or /ɔɪ/: lawyer /ˈlɔːjər, ˈlɔɪər/
- In separate syllables
- aware - award
"ae"[edit | edit source]
Main article: Decoding exercises: "ae"
- as /iː/ or /e/: aesthetic
- as /iː/: Caesar - paediatricianBrE
- as /ə/: gynaecologistBrE
- as /eɪ/ or /iː/: sundae
- as /eə/: aerobic - aeroplaneBrE
"ar"[edit | edit source]
- Main article: Decoding exercises: "ar"
- 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
"arr"[edit | edit source]
- Main article: Decoding exercises: "arr"
- /æ/: barrier - carry - embarrass - marriage - marry - narrative - narrow
- /ɒ/,BrE /ɔː/AmE: warrant - warranty
- /ə/: arrange - arrest - arrive
Homophones[edit | edit source]
- 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; hair - hare; pair - pear; stairs - stares;
- As /æ/: ad - add; band - banned; cash - cache;
- As /ɑːBrE, æAmE/: passed - past;
Only in non-rhotic accents:
- As /ɑː/: aren't - aunt
- Waze - ways
Different pronunciations in the same word[edit | edit source]
- Africa/African - America/American - Australia/Australian - Austria/Austrian - average - character - language
Anticipated pronunciation difficulties depending on L1[edit | edit source]
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.
Spanish[edit | edit source]
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.
References[edit | edit source]
- Merriam Webster's Learner's Dictionary, accessible with /ɪ/.
- Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. accessible with /ə/.
- Collins English Dictionary, character with /ɪ/.
- Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary, character with /ə/.
- Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. chocolate with /ɪ/.
- Merriam Webster's Learner's Dictionary, chocolate with /ə/.
- Merriam Webster's Learner's Dictionary, extravagant with /ɪ/.
- Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary, extravagant with /ə/.