Open-mid back rounded vowel

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north /nɔːrθ/


thought /θɔːt/

In Received Pronunciation, the IPA phonetic symbol /ɔː/ corresponds to the vowel sound in words like "north", "force", and "thought". Additionally, many people pronounce "sure" as /ʃɔːr/ instead of the more traditional /ʃʊər/. See IPA phoneme /ʊə/.

In General American this phoneme is heard in "north", "force", "thought", and also "cloth" (the latter is pronounced /ɒ/ in Received Pronunciation).

In Received Pronunciation /ɔːr/ is pronounced [ɔː] unless it is followed by a vowel, i.e. when the spelling has an "r", it is normally silent unless it is followed by a vowel.

In General American the "r" in /ɔːr/ is always pronounced.

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


Common words[edit | edit source]

Some common words containing /ɔː/ include the following:

  • with "oa": abroad - broad
  • with "ough": ought - thought
past tense and past participle: bought - brought - fought - sought - thought
  • with "a": water
  • with "al": almost - already - alter - always - chalk - false - salt (also /sɒlt/BrE) - talk - walk
  • with "all": ball - call - fall - hall - mall - small - wall
  • with "aw": dawn - flaw - hawk - jaw - law - lawn - raw - saw - shawl - thaw - yawn
  • with "au": auction - August - author - autumn - cause - clause - daughter - fault - launch
past tense and past participle: caught - taught

/ɔːr/[edit | edit source]

See Decoding exercises: "orV" and "orrV"

Some common words containing /ɔːr/ include the following (note that the /r/ is silent in Received Pronunciation, unless it is followed by a vowel)

  • with "or": afford - born - cork - door - floor - fork - horse - lord - more - nor - or - pork - score - short - store - storm - story - sword
  • with "oar": boar - board - oar - roar - soar
  • with "our": court - four - pour
  • with "ar": quarter - war - warm - warn
  • with "awer": drawer

Homophones[edit | edit source]

  • All accents: bored - board; clause - claws; or - oar - ore; pause - paws; warn - worn;
  • Only in non-rhotic accents: court - caught; source - sauce; stork - stalk.
  • your /jɔːrBrE jʊərAmE jərBrE AmE/ - you're /jɔːrBrE jʊərBrE AmE jərAmE/
  • What is the difference between a cat and a comma?
A cat has its claws at the end of its paws and a comma has its pause at the end of its clause.

Anticipated pronunciation difficulties depending on L1[edit | edit source]

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

Spanish[edit | edit source]

Some Spanish speakers may, at first, have difficulty distinguishing between the vowel sound in "north" and that of /ɒ/, as in "not".

It is not uncommon to hear them pronouncing */ˈalsəʊ/ or */alˈtɜːrnatɪv/.

See also Decoding exercises: "au" § Spanish L1.

See also[edit | edit source]