IPA phoneme /r/

From Teflpedia

Strict IPA


rose [ɹəʊz]



river /ˈrɪvər/



color /ˈkʌlɚ/



nurse /nɝs/

In Received Pronunciation and in General American, the IPA phoneme /r/ corresponds to the initial consonant sound in words like "rose", and "wrong" and the final one in "car" and "more".

In a narrow notation the correct IPA phonetic symbol for /r/ is [ɹ]. For simplicity in a broad notation /r/ is used in most dictionaries.

In Received Pronunciation /r/ after a vowel is not pronounced unless it is followed by another vowel. For example "dear Charles" is [dɪə ˈtʃɑːlz] and "dear Alice" is [dɪəɹ ˈælɪs].

In General American "r" is always pronounced: [dɪɹ ˈtʃɑːrlz] and [dɪɹ ˈælɪs]. In many rhotic accents /ər/ is realized as [ɚ] (color [ˈkʌlɚ]) and /ɜː/ is realized as [ɝ] or stressed [ɚ] (occur [əˈkɝ, əˈkɚ]). [ɚ] and [ɝ] are called r-colored vowels. Many American Dictionaries use [ɚ] and [ɝ].

There are places in the United Kingdom where /r/ is pronounced, and places in North America where /r/ is silent.

In this site the /r/ is always written; teachers and students must know when to drop it (the rule is exactly the same for phonetic notation and for conventional spelling).

Common words[edit]

Initial pronunciation of /r/

  • read - really - report - result - rhyme - right - room - run - write - wrong

Final pronunciation of /r/. /r/ is always preceded by one of seven vowels.

/aɪə/: fire
/aʊə/: sour

Mid-word pronunciation of /r/:

around - break - carry - different - ferry - mirror - parent - worry
  • In the following examples /r/ is silent in Received Pronunciation
arm - careful - force - forget - large - order - perform - verb - word
  • These are probably the only words where /r/ is not spelled "r":
"l" as /r/: colonel /ˈkɜːrnəl/
French "oe" as /ɜːr/: hors d'oeuvre /ɔr ˈdɜːrv/
metathesis: comfortable /ˈkʌmftəbəl, ˈkʌmfərtəbəl, ˈkʌmftərbəlAmE/


The sound /r/ has several restrictions about what vowels it can follow.

In the following table # means the end of the word, C is any consonant and V is any vowel.

Vowel Vr#, VrC VrV Mergers and splits
/æ/ No Yes: arid, carry AmE: Mary-marry-merry merger
/ɑː/ Yes: car, start Derived words: starring, starry
Loan words: sari
AmE: "orr": borrow, sorrow, sorry, tomorrow
/e/ No Yes: cherish, cherry AmE: Mary-marry-merry merger
/eə/ Yes: square, scarce Yes: hilarious, hairy AmE: Mary-marry-merry merger
/eɪ/ No; /eə/ (as in prayer) and /eɪə/ (as in player) are valid Compound words: payroll N/A
/ɪ/ No Yes: spirit, mirror AmE: Mirror-nearer
/ɪə/ Yes: near, weird Yes: period, appearance AmE: Mirror-nearer
/iː/ No; /ɪə/ (as in beer) and /iːə/ (as in freer) are valid Compound words: free-range N/A
/ɒ/ No Yes: forest, torrid, sorry AmE /ɑː/: sorry /ɔː/ forest, torrid
Canadian English: /ɔː/ forest, torrid, sorry
[oə] Currently /ɔː/. Yes: score, door, force Yes: glory, scoring In most dialects [oə] is now /ɔː/ (north-force merge)
/ɔː/ Yes: for, north Only abhorring North-force merge
/əʊ/ No; /ɔː/ (as in score) and /əʊər/ (as in goer) are valid Compound words: low-range N/A
/ʊ/ No Loan words: guru, Jurassic AmE: /ʊ-ʊə/, AmE: /ʊ-ʊə-ɜː/
/ʊə/ Yes: cure, cured Yes: assurance, plural AmE: /ʊ-ʊə/, AmE: /ʊ-ʊə-ɜː/
BrE: cure-force (valid for assurance but not for plural)
/uː/ No; /ʊə/ (as in cure) and /uːə/ (as in doer) are valid Compound words: Blu-ray N/A
/ʌ/ No Yes: hurry, worry AmE: hurry-furry
/ɜː/ Yes: fur, stir, verb, nurse Derived words: furry, stirring AmE: hurry-furry

Anticipated pronunciation difficulties depending on L1[edit]

Preconceived ideas and other interferences from L1 obviously interfere in many cases with how students perceive - and pronounce - sounds/words in English. The following section aims to point out some of the most typical difficulties teachers and students may encounter regarding pronunciation.


See also[edit]

External links[edit]