Decoding and spelling exercises: /æ/ vs /eɪ/

From Teflpedia

vapor /ˈveɪpər/


value /ˈvæljuː/

IPA vowels
æ ɑː
trap father - start
dress face square
ɪ ɪə
kit fleece near
ɒ əʊ ɔː
lot goat taught
ʊ ʊə
foot goose mature
juː jʊə
cute cure
ʌ ə ɜː
strut comma nurse
price mouth choice
IPA consonants
Normal sound: /b, d, f, g, h, k, l, m, n, p, r, s, t, v, w, z/
 ʃ  ŋ
show church sing
ʒ  j 
usual judge you
θ ð s
think that see
IPA Stress
ˈ Primary stress
hotel /həʊˈtel/
ˌ Secondary stress
IPA Syllabification
. nitrate /ˈnaɪ.treɪt/, night-rate /ˈnaɪt.reɪt/

Since the spelling of /æ/ and /eɪ/ is often the same, many students confuse these two sounds, even if they are able to pronounce them. For example, the word "catering" is often pronounced as */ˈkætərɪŋ/ instead of /ˈkeɪtərɪŋ/.


/æ/ is always followed by one or more consonants. In derived words a single consonant is usually doubled (plan, planned; dad, daddy).

"a" followed by a single consonant "a" followed by a double consonant "a" followed by two or more different consonants
/æ/ family, travel, value daddy, happen, planned ankle, match, stamp, stand
/eɪ/ information, make, paper bass (in music) ancient, strange, table

Common words[edit]

"a" as /æ/[edit]

  • before single consonant: average, balance, damage, family, have, January, manage, national, natural, standard, value, travel
  • before two consonants: absolutely, action, actually, angry, aspect, capture, champagne, contract, factor, financial, handle, practice, transport
  • misleading silent e: cache, have

"a" as /eɪ/[edit]

  • before single consonant: agency, baby, basic, behaviorAmE, behaviourBrE, education, information, label, major, nature, paper, patient, situation
  • before two consonants: able, acre, ancient, apron, arrange, cable, chamber, champagne, change, fragrance, range, strange, table

Minimal pairs[edit]

  • act - ached; add - aid; back - bake; bran - brain; cat - Kate; clam - claim; fact - faked; fat - fate; hat - hate; jams - James; lack - lake; mad - made/maid; man - main; mat - mate; pal - pale; pants - paints; plan - plane/plain; ran - rain; rat - rate; Sam - same; span - Spain; stack - stake; stand - stained; tax - takes; van - vain/vein/vane;

Similar words with different pronunciations[edit]

  • /eɪ/ then /æ/: nation - nationalism; nature - natural; ratio - rational;

These words don't rhyme[edit]

  • have - cave;

Variant pronunciations[edit]

  • apricot /ˈeɪprɪkɒt,BrE ˈæprɪkɒtAmE/
  • data /ˈdeɪtə, ˈdɑːtə,BrE ˈdætəAmE/
  • expatriate /ˌeksˈpeɪtrɪət,AmE ˌeksˈpætrɪətBrE/


  • bass
/bæs/: a type of fish
/beɪs/: several terms in music (low voice, musical instrument)
  • patent
/ˈpætənt/: right to make an invention
/ˈpeɪtənt/: obvious, evident


See also[edit]

External links[edit]