Ea

From Teflpedia

steak /steɪk/

e

head /hed/

eat /iːt/

Together with the article on decoding difficulties, this page sets out some common (or not...) words teachers can use to help their students become more aware of how they can sound out more correctly the different sounds corresponding to words containing "ea", mainly /iː/, /e/, /eɪ/, /ɪə/, /ɜː/ and /eə/.

Depending on their mother tongue (L1), students may have difficulty distinguishing between these two sounds. More often than not, these supposed difficulties depend more on the interference of L1 than on the actual difficulties posed by English, and many, if not most students will greatly improve their pronunciation by simply becoming aware of certain differences - together with a minimum of practice.

Don't forget that intonation, linking and stress, both for individual words and for sentence stress, are also, of course, of vital importance in speaking better English.

/iː/[edit | edit source]

  • as /iː/: beach - bead - beat - bleach - breathe - cheat - clean - cream - creature - deal - dream - each - easy - eat - feature - heal - heat - increase - jeans - lead (verb) - leader - leaf - lean - leave - meal - mean - meat - pea - peach - peak - please - reach - read - repeat - reason - reveal - scream - sea - seal - seat - steal - steam - stream - teach - team - treat - weak
  • Homophones: bean - been; beat - beet; feat - feet; heal - heel; jeans - genes; leak - leek; meat - meet; pea - pee - P; peace - piece; read - reed; sea - see - C; steal - steel; tea - tee - T; team - teem; weak - week;

/e/[edit | edit source]

  • as /e/: ahead - already - bread - breakfast - breast - breath - cleanse - dead - deaf - dealt - death - dread - dreadful - feather - head - header - health - heather - heavy - instead - jealous - lead (metal) - leapt - leather - meadow - meant - measure - pheasant - pleasant - pleasure - read (past tense and past participle) - ready - spread - steady - sweat - thread - threat - threaten - treachery - tread - treadmill - treasure - wealth - weapon - weather
  • Homophones: bred - bread; led - lead; lent - leant; red - read; whether - weather
  • Minimal pairs (only the last consonant is different): dead - debt; head - hell; sweat - swell; tread - trek;
  • These words don't rhyme: /iː/ vs /e/: bead - dread; beans - cleanse; beaten - threaten; beneath - breath; leader - header; leaf - deaf; least - breast; treat - threat;

/eɪ/[edit | edit source]

Ronald Reagan (American president) - W B Yeats (Irish writer)
  • Homophones: brake - break; grate - great; stake - steak

Others[edit | edit source]

  • /ə/: ocean
  • /ɔː/: Sean /ʃɔːn/
  • /eə/: yeah
  • /ɪ/: mileage
  • "eau" as /juː/: beauty - beautiful

Silent e + "a" as /ə/: enforceable - knowledgeable - noticeable

Two syllables

  • /iːeɪ/: create - creation
  • /iːæ/: preamble - react - reaction - Seattle
  • /iːɪ/: lineage
  • /iːə/: area, Caribbean
  • "crea" as /kərɪ/: acreage

"ear"[edit | edit source]

/ɪə/[edit | edit source]

  • as /ɪə/: appear - beard - clear - dear - ear - earring - fear - gear /gɪər/ - hear - near - rear - tear (teardrop) - year

/ɜː/[edit | edit source]

  • as /ɜː/: early - earn - earth - heard - hearse - learn - pearl - rehearsal - rehearse - search;

/eə/[edit | edit source]

  • as /eə/: bear - pear - swear - tear (verb) - wear
  • Homophones: bare - bear; pair - pear; where - wear;

Two syllables[edit | edit source]

  • /iːə/: linear - nuclear

Spelling anomalies[edit | edit source]

  • as /ɑː/: heart - hearth (the floor at the bottom of a fireplace)

Heteronyms[edit | edit source]

  • lead /liːd/ (v. guide) - /led/ (n. metal)
  • read /riːd/ (present) - /red/ (past)
  • tear /teər/ (v. damage) /tɪər/ (n. liquid)

/iː/ and /e/[edit | edit source]

Several words that are pronounced with /iː/ have a related word with /e/.

  • clean - cleanse; heal - health; please - pleasure; zeal - zealous;

Irregular verbs[edit | edit source]

Some irregular verbs and pronounced /iː/ become /e/ in the past tense. Many of them are spelt "ea".

  • deal - dealt; dream - dreamed or dreamt; eat - ate /et,BrE eɪtAmE/; lead - led; lean - leaned or leant; leap - leaped or leapt; mean - meant; read - read;

Three columns[edit | edit source]

A spelling and decoding exercise is to arrange "ea" and /e/ words in three columns[1] as in the following example.

"e" = /e/ "ea" = /e/ "ea" = /iː/
get head mean
well already leave
yes health each
help measure increase
next death reason
smell zealous zeal

Spanish L1[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]