Decoding the letter R
R normally modifies the sound of the vowel letters preceding it in comparison to the sound that those letters have before other consonants.
For single vowels there are three sounds:
- Long monophthong as /ɑː/ in start, sari, starry, starred, starring
- Rhotic diphthong as /eə/ in square, scary
- Short or normal sound, which is present before any consonant, as /æ/ in trap, carry, arid
For intervocalic "r" there are two spelling patterns for three sounds. As an example we put the table for "a". V is any vowel.
Below there is a complete table for all vowels. Cells in yellow indicate that there are very few examples.
|Vowel letters||Normal sound||Normal sound examples||Normal sound examples||Rhotic sound||Rhotic sound examples|
|AmE also with /e/|
|a, ai||/eɪ/||face, wait||N/A||payroll||/eə/||square, scary, hair, hairy||N/A|
|e, ea||/e/||dress, head||ferry||very||/ɜː/||verb, learn||preferred|
|e, ea, ee||/iː/||theme, deal, fleece||N/A||rewrite||/ɪə/||mere, near, deer||N/A|
|i, y||/ɪ/||kit, myth||mirror||spirit, lyrics||/ɜː/||girl||stirred, myrrh|
|i, y||/aɪ/||nice, type||N/A||virus||/aɪə/||fire, tyreBrE||N/A|
|o, oa, ou||/əʊ/, [oʊ]AmE||joke, goat, soul||N/A||showroom||FORCE vowel:
[ɔː, o,AmE oəAmE]
|force, more, glory, board, course||N/A|
|AmE with /ɜː/|
AmE with /ɜː/
|u||/juː, uː/||cute, student||N/A||Blu-ray||/jʊə, ʊə/, [jɔː, ɔː]BrE||cure, sure, tourist||N/A|
|ou, ow||/aʊ/||mouth, down||N/A||dowry||/aʊə/||sour||N/A|
(*) Exceptional sound for this spelling
Examples of intervocalic R
In the table below we show many examples of intervocalic R and the corresponding rhotic vowel sounds when the spelling uses one vowel letter.
|Short monophthong examples||Long
|Long monophthong examples||Diphthong||Diphthong examples|
|a||/æ/||barrier, carry, embarrass, marriage, marry, narrative, narrow||character, characteristic, characterize, charity, comparison, guarantee, parallel, paragraph, salary||/ɑː/||safari, sari, scenarioBrE||barring, jarring, scarring, sparring, starring, starry||/eə/||caring, hilarious, Mary, parent, rarely, Sarah, scenario,AmE scaring, staring, variable, variation, variety, various, vary|
|e||/e/||berry, cherry, deterrent,BrE errand, error, ferret, ferry, herring, interrogate, merry, sherry, terrible, terror, terrorist, territory||American, austerity, ceremony, cherish, clerical, derelict, derivation, dexterity, experiment, herald, heresy, heritage, heroism, heron, hysterical, imperative, inherit, merit, numeric, peril, perilous, perish, posterity, prosperity, severity, sheriff, sincerity, spherical, stereo, sterile, therapy, verify, verification, very||/ɜː/||deferring, deterrent,AmE deterring, inferring, preferring, referral, referring, transferring||/ɪə/||criteria, criterion, experience, hero, material, period, series, serious|
|i||/ɪ/||irrational, irrefutable, irregular, irrelevant, irreparable, irresistible, irrigation, irritation, mirror||conspiracy, delirious, miracle, mirage, satiric, spirit||/ɜː/||stirring, whirring||/aɪ/||irate, Irish, ironic, irony, pirate, siren, spiral, virus|
|/aɪə/||admirer, desirable, firearm|
|o||/ɒ/BrE /ɑː/AmE||borrow, sorrow, sorry, tomorrow||N/A||/ɔː/||boring, chlorine, choral, explorer, exploring, glory, ignoring, historian, memorial, moreover, notorious, restoring, scoring, storage, storing, story||abhorring||[oə]||Now merged with /ɔː/|
|/ɒ/BrE /ɔː/AmE||abhorrent, correlation, correspond, corridor, horrible, horror, porridge, torrent, torrid||foreign, forest, historical, majority, moral, orange, origin, priority|
|u||/ʌ/||concurrence, concurrent, currant, current, currency, curry, flurry, hurricane, hurry, recurrence, surrogate||/ɜː/||blurring, blurry, concurring, furry, purring, occurring||/ʊə||curable, curious, jury, lurid, mural, neural, plural, puritan, rural, spurious|
|/ʊ/||Burundi, guru, Jurassic, uranium|
|y||/ɪ/||Thyrrhenian||lyrics, pyramid, syringe, tyranny||/ɜː/||/aɪ/||gyrate, thyroid, tyrant|
R in combinations
- "rh" sounds like "r"
- rhinoceros - rhyme - rhythm
- "wr" sounds like "r"
- wrap - wrapper - wrist - write - wrong
- Rhotic and non-rhotic accent
- Decoding exercises: "ar"
- Decoding exercises: "arr"
- Decoding exercises: "arV" and "arrV"
- Decoding exercises: "er"
- Decoding exercises: "err"
- Decoding exercises: "erV" and "errV"
- Decoding exercises: "ir"
- Decoding exercises: "irr"
- Decoding exercises: "irV", "yrV", "irrV" and "yrrV"
- Decoding exercises: "or"
- Decoding exercises: "orr"
- Decoding exercises: "orV" and "orrV"
- Pronunciation exercises: /ɒrV/ vs /ɔːrV/
- Decoding exercises: "ur"
- Decoding exercises: "urr"
- Decoding exercises: "urV" and "urrV"