Phoneme /ɔː/ in General American (international version)

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This phonetics article is adapted for General American, highlighting the differences with British English and received pronunciation. For a simple article see Phoneme /ɔː/ in General American. For received pronunciation see IPA phoneme /ɔː/ and IPA phoneme /ɒ/.


north /nɔːrθ/


cloth /klɔːθ/


thought /θɔːt/

In General American the IPA phonetic symbol /ɔː/ corresponds to the vowel sound in words like "north", "force", "thought", and also "cloth" (the latter is pronounced /ɒ/ in Received Pronunciation).

IPA vowels
æ ɑː
trap father - start
dress face square
ɪ ɪə
kit fleece near
ɒ əʊ ɔː
lot goat taught
ʊ ʊə
foot goose mature
juː jʊə
cute cure
ʌ ə ɜː
strut comma nurse
price mouth choice
IPA consonants
Normal sound: /b, d, f, g, h, k, l, m, n, p, r, s, t, v, w, z/
 ʃ  ŋ
show church sing
ʒ  j 
usual judge you
θ ð s
think that see
IPA Stress
ˈ Primary stress
hotel /həʊˈtel/
ˌ Secondary stress
IPA Syllabification
. nitrate /ˈnaɪ.treɪt/, night-rate /ˈnaɪt.reɪt/

In Received Pronunciation, this phoneme is heard in "north", "force", and "thought". Additionally, many people pronounce "sure" as /ʃɔːr/ instead of the more traditional /ʃʊər/. See IPA phoneme /ʊə/.

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. Many people pronounce /ɔː/ and /ɔːr/ with different vowels (e.g. sauce as [sɔs] and source as [sors]); however since the difference is predictable there is no problem using the same symbol in both cases (e.g. /sɔːs/ and /sɔːrs/).

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


Common words[edit]

Some common words containing /ɔː/ include the following:

  • with "o"AmE: across, along, cloth, cost, cross, dog, gone, long, loss, lost, off, offer, office, often, soft, song, strong, wrong
  • 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 - talk - walk
  • with "all": ball - call - fall - hall - mall - small - talk - walk - wall
  • with "aw": dawn - flaw - hawk - jaw - law - lawn - raw - saw - shawl - thaw - yawn
  • with "au": auction - August - AussieAmE - austerity - AustraliaAmE - AustriaAmE - author - autumn - cause - clause - daughter - fault - launch
past tense and past participle: caught - taught
  • with "ou": coughAmE

Words marked AmE are pronounced with /ɒ/ in Received Pronunciation.


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 - sword
  • with "oar": boar - board - oar - roar - soar
  • with "our": court - four - pour
  • with "ar": quarter - war - warm - warn

/ɔː/, /ɑː/ or /ɒ/[edit]

Note that /ɒ/ and /ɑː/ sound identically in most of North America. All these words have an /ɒ/ sound in Received Pronunciation.

  • alcohol - Boston - chocolate - gone - on - wash

/ɔːr/, /ɑːr/ or /ɒr/[edit]

  • borrow - Florida - orange - sorrow - sorry - tomorrow - warrant - warranty

Cot-caught merger[edit]

Main article: Cot-caught merger

In many parts of North America (about half the United States and all of Canada)[1] /ɑː/ and /ɔː/ sound the same. This is in addition to the father - bother merger, where /ɑː/ and /ɒ/ sound the same. This means that caught /ɔː/, cot /ɒ/, father /ɑː/ and bother /ɒ/ have all the same stressed vowel /ɑː/. In this accent /ɔː/ appears only followed by /r/: north, force.


The cot-caught merger generates very few homophones.

  • bot (computer program; shortening of robot) - bought; collar - caller; cot - caught; don (put clothes on)/Don (nickname of Donald) - dawn/Dawn; stock - stalk;

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 sections aims to point out some of the most typical difficulties teachers and students may encounter regarding pronunciation.


Many Spanish speakers will pronounce the short o sound as /ɔː/ even when it should be pronounced /ɑː/: lot as */lɔːt/.

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


  1. William Labov,The Organization of Dialect Diversity in North America, The o/oh merger [i.e. The /ɑː - ɔː/ merger].

See also[edit]