Decoding exercises: "ar"

From Teflpedia


arid /ˈærɪd/

care /keər/


car /kɑːr/

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

The letter combination "ar" has several different pronunciations, mainly /ɑːr/ and /eər/. This article sets out some words teachers can use to help their students become more aware of the differences.


See Decoding exercises: "arr"


  • /ɑːr/: arm - art - bar - car - card - charge - dark - far - farm - guard - hard - large - mark - park - part - sharp - star - start - yard
Misleading silent e: are
  • Magic e /eər/: care - rare - scare - share - square - stare
  • /ɔːr/: quart - war - warm - warn

At the beginning or in the middle of the word[edit]

  • /ɑːr/: Argentina, argue, argument, Arkansas, army, article, artist, department, market, participant, party
  • /eər/: aquarium, area, Bulgaria, canary, careful, hilarious, invariable, malaria, parent, scarce, scary, variable, various, vary
ending in "arian": authoritarian, Bulgarian, humanitarian, Hungarian, librarian, vegetarian
  • /ær/: apparel, apparent, Arizona, asparagus, characteristic, paragraph, transparent
  • /ər/: arise, around, barista, cigarette, Hungary, parenthesis, separate, particular, variety

At the end of the word[edit]

  • Magic e /eər/: aware - compare - declare - hardware - prepare - software
  • /ɑːr/: avatar - cigar - guitar
  • /ər/: burglar - calendar - caterpillar - cellular - circular - dollar - grammar - Madagascar - particular - popular - rectangular - regular - similar - solar - sugar

Followed by consonants[edit]

  • /ɑːr/: apart - Denmark - regard - standard
  • /ɔːr/: award - reward
  • /ər/: awkward - Edward - forward - leopard - lizard - Richard - Spaniard - standard

Variant pronunciations[edit]

  • /ər/BrE /er/:AmE library, necessary, primary, temporary
  • /r/BrE (silent "a"), /er/:AmE military, secretary
  • /eər/BrE AmE /ær/AmE: parent
  • towards /təˈwɔːrdz,BrE tɔːrdzAmE/

Mary-marry-merry merger[edit]

In North America 74% of speakers merge "Mary" and "marry" (see Mary-marry-merry merger). This means that all words marked /eər/ or /ær/ are pronounced alike (either [eər] or [er]).

This particular merger is sometimes called the "hairy-Harry merger".

See also[edit]