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.
- 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;
- 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;
- as /eɪ/: break - great - steak
- Ronald Reagan (American president) - W B Yeats (Irish writer)
- Homophones: brake - break; grate - great; stake - steak
- /ə/: ocean
- /ɔː/: Sean /ʃɔːn/
- /eə/: yeah
- /ɪ/: mileage
- "eau" as /juː/: beauty - beautiful
Silent e + "a" as /ə/: enforceable - knowledgeable - noticeable
- /iːeɪ/: create - creation
- /iːæ/: preamble - react - reaction - Seattle
- /iːɪ/: lineage
- /iːə/: area, Caribbean
- "crea" as /kərɪ/: acreage
- as /ɪə/: appear - beard - clear - dear - ear - earring - fear - gear /gɪər/ - hear - near - rear - tear (teardrop) - year
- Homophones: dear - deer; hear - here
- as /ɜː/: early - earn - earth - heard - hearse - learn - pearl - rehearsal - rehearse - search;
- Homophones: urn - earn; herd - heard;
- as /eə/: bear - pear - swear - tear (verb) - wear
- Homophones: bare - bear; pair - pear; where - wear;
- /iːə/: linear - nuclear
- as /ɑː/: heart - hearth (the floor at the bottom of a fireplace)
- lead /liːd/ (v. guide) - /led/ (n. metal)
- read /riːd/ (present) - /red/ (past)
- tear /teər/ (v. damage) /tɪər/ (n. liquid)
/iː/ and /e/
Several words that are pronounced with /iː/ have a related word with /e/.
- clean - cleanse; heal - health; please - pleasure; zeal - zealous;
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;
A spelling and decoding exercise is to arrange "ea" and /e/ words in three columns as in the following example.
|"e" = /e/||"ea" = /e/||"ea" = /iː/|
- The measured mom, Spelling ea words (a free lesson with printables!)