Pronunciation exercises: /əʊ/ vs /ɒ/

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doll /dɒl/


roll /rəʊl/

Together with the page possible pronunciation difficulties, this page sets out some common words teachers can use to help their students become more aware of how they can improve their pronunciation of the vowel sounds /əʊ/ and /ɒ/.

/ɒ/ is a monophthong and /əʊ/ is a diphthong. Both sounds are not very similar, but their spelling may be the same (as in doll and roll).

Words marked with * are pronounced with /ɔː/ in many places of the United States (particularly in General American).

Spelling[edit | edit source]

/ɒ/ is always followed by one or more consonants. In derived words a single consonant is usually doubled (hop, hopping; rot, rotten).

"o" followed by a single consonant "o" followed by a double consonant "o" followed by two or more different consonants "o" at the end of the word
/ɒ/ body, model, product common, follow, possible contact, involve, problem  
/əʊ/ local, open, social gross, roll only, hostess, program also, go, potato

/əʊ/[edit | edit source]

  • with "oa": boat - coast - coat - foam - goal - toast
  • with "ow": bowl - own
  • with "o" and magic e: bone - choke - close - cone - gnome - hole - home - hope - phone - Rome - stone - tone - vote
  • with "o": both - mobile - notable - only - open - over - program
  • with "ol": cold - control - fold - gold - hold - old - poll - roll - sold - told
  • with "os": ghost - host - most
  • with "ou": shoulder - soul

homophones: hole - whole; loan - lone; poll - pole; roll - role; soul - sole;

When /əʊ/ is at the end of the word there is no possibility of confusion, because /ɒ/ is always followed by a consonant.

  • with "ow": blow, flow, know, low, show, snow, throw
  • with "o": ago, also, go, potato, video
  • with "ou": although, though

/ɒ/[edit | edit source]

  • with "o": doll - golf* - hot - lot - off* - on* - stop - top;
  • with "ong"*: long - song - strong - wrong;
  • others: gone* - knowledge - want* - what.

/əʊ/ vs /ɒ/[edit | edit source]

  • Minimal pairs: coast - cost;* coma - comma; hope - hop; Joan - John; modal - model; note - not; owed - odd; own - on;* Pope - pop; won't - want;*
  • These words don't rhyme: gross - boss;* most - lost;* roll - doll;
  • Other: go - gone;* gold - golf;* Joe - John; know - knowledge; no - not; program - problem;

Variant pronunciations[edit | edit source]

  • holistic: /həʊˈlɪstɪk, hɒˈlɪstɪk/
  • productivity: /prɒdʌkˈtɪvətiː,BrE AmE proʊdʌkˈtɪvətiːAmE/
  • progress: /ˈprəʊɡres,BrE ˈprɒgres, ˈprɒgrəsAmE/
  • shone: /ʃɒn,BrE ʃəʊnAmE/

Spanish L1[edit | edit source]

Spanish does not have the diphthong "ou", but most people have no problem pronouncing show when speaking Spanish as [tʃou]. On the other hand, since the diphthong does not exist, it is normal to drop the [u] sound. For example póster for "poster", eslogan for "slogan", gol for "goal" (score) and jonrón for "home run" (baseball jargon). Most Spanish speakers can be educated into pronouncing correctly the /əʊ/ sound, either as [əʊ], [əu], [oʊ] or [ou].

The main problem is the spelling. Words such as "gold" or "host" are much more likely to be pronounced incorrectly than "boat" or "home".

References[edit | edit source]

See also[edit | edit source]