Spelling patterns for the letter A
- So-called “short a”, IPA phoneme /æ/, as in trap, bat, batting, rapid or marry.
- So-called “long a”, IPA phoneme /eɪ/, as in face, facing or famous
- “Short” "ar" sound, phoneme /ɑː/ in Received Pronunciation, as in start, bar or barred
- “Long” "ar" sound, IPA phoneme /eə/, as in care, caring or parent
It also can be pronounced /ɑː/ as in bath and /ɔː/ as in all — plus other, less common pronunciations, sometimes in combination with other letters, and, of course, it can be used as schwa. There are some helpful rules (to be taken with the habitual pinch of salt).
It is also very much one of those cases in which teachers, whichever their preferences might be, need to point out the differences between RP (/ɑː/) and American (/æ/) pronunciations regarding, particularly with words like bath and past, while pointing out, of course, that most native British English speakers do, in fact, pronounce them /æ/.
As a single letter[edit source]
See main article IPA phoneme /æ/.
At the beginning or the middle of a word[edit source]
One syllable[edit source]
- /æ/: am - and - at - bag - bat - can - cat - fan - ham - hand - land - man - map - sand - stand
- /ɑː/. Before /f, n, s/ and /θ/: advantage - ask - bath - can't - chance - class - dance - fast - France - grass - half - last - pass - past - path - staff - task
- Other: calm - palm
- /ɔː/: Before /l/: all - ball - call - fall - hall - salt - small - tall
- after "w": walk - wall
- other: chalk - talk
Several syllables[edit source]
One consonant[edit source]
The following words have "a" followed by one consonant sound.
- Last syllable
- /æ/: exam, Japan -
- /ə/: African, American, dollar, final, human, legal, local, organ, popular, several, similar, total, woman
- Other syllable
- /æ/ balance - damage - January - manage - natural - rapid - value
- /eɪ/: basic - capable - Danish - famous - label - nature - paper - razor - tomatoAmE
- /ɑː/: banana - tomatoBrE
- /ɒ/: equality - qualify - quality
- /ɔː/: water
- /e/: any - many - Thames
- /ə/: about - above - again - alone - among - another
- Unstressed /ɪ/: garbage - spinach
Double consonant[edit source]
The following words have "a" followed by the same duplicate consonant (or "ck").
- /æ/: channel - classic - gallery - grammar - happy - jacket - passage - passenger - programmeBrE - traffic
- /ɑː/: giraffe
- /ɒ/: wallet
- /ə/: afford - appeal - appear
Several consonants[edit source]
The following words have "a" followed by two or more different consonant sounds.
- /æ/: anger - angry - attack - battle - capture - factor - relax
- /ɑː/: advantage - after - answer - basket - example - father - rather
- /ɔː/: almost - already - also - alter - always
- /ɒ/: quantity - wander
- /ə/. At beginning (including many verbs): acquire - admire - agree
- as part of suffix -able: capable - likeable - probable;
- /eɪ/: able - ancient - danger - stranger - table
- Derived forms: changing - pasted - pasting - tasted - tasting - wasted - wasting
At the end of a word[edit source]
One syllable[edit source]
- /ɑː/: bra - spa
Several syllables[edit source]
- /ə/: area - camera - comma - formula - idea - opera
- Africa - America - Argentina - Barbara - China - Colombia - Jessica - Montana - Russia
Silent A[edit source]
- basica’lly - logically - practica’lly - typically
Combined with another letter[edit source]
With magic e[edit source]
- So-called “long a”, /eɪ/: ache - age - bake - blame - brake - cake - date - escape - estimate (v.) - face - fake - game - gate - late - lake - male - make - name - pale - plate - sale - same - sane - shake - snake - state - take - trade - wake - whale
- Two consonant sounds (unusual use of magic e): change - paste - strange - taste - waste
With silent e[edit source]
- /ɪ/: advantage - average - garbage - image - language - manage - village
- /ə/: chocolate - estimate (n.) - private - purchase
- The word "forbade".
- The past tense of "forbid" has several variants.
- forbade /fərˈbæd, fərˈbeɪd/
- forbad /fərˈbæd/
- /eɪ/: Mae - reggae /ˈreɡeɪ/ - sundae /ˈsʌndeɪ, ˈsʌndɪ/
"ae" in words of Greek origin[edit source]
In words derived from Greek via Latin "ae" is pronounced /iː/, /ɪ/, /e/ or /ə/. Alternative spellings are "æ" (as in "æstetics") in British English and "e" (as in "esthetics") in American English. Some "ae" words can only be spelled with "e" in American English (such as "hemoglobin").
- "ae" in British English
- /iː/ or /ɪ/: archaeology
- /iː/: aesthetic (also /e/) - anaesthesia or anesthesia - Caesar /ˈsiːzər/ - haemoglobinBrE - hyena or hyaena - orthopaedic or orthopedic - paediatricianBrE
- /ɪ/: Caesarean section
- /e/: aesthetic (also /iː/)
- /ə/: gynaecologistBrE
- Corresponding words in American English
- /iː/ or /ɪ/: archaeology or archeologyAmE
- /iː/: aesthetic or estheticAmE - anesthesia or anaesthesia - Caesar /ˈsiːzər/ - hemoglobinAmE - hyena or hyaena - orthopedic or orthopaedic - pediatricianAmE
- /ɪ/: CesareanAmE section or Caesarean section
- /e/: aesthetic or estheticAmE
- /ə/: gynecologistAmE
- /eɪ/: Adelaide, afraid, aid, aim, available, brain, campaign, chain, claim, complain, contain, daily, detail, entertain, explain, fail, faith, gain, hail, Haiti, jail, mail, main, Maine, maintain, paid, pain, paint, rail, rain, raise, remain, retail, snail, Spain, stain, straight, train, trait, wait
- /e/: again (also /əˈɡeɪn/) - said
- /eɪ/: day - pay - play - May - say - stay - tray
- /e/: says
See main article Decoding exercises: "au"
- /ɔː/: August - author - autumn - caught - cause - daughter - taught;
- /ɒ/: Aussie - Australia - Austria;
- /ɑː/ : aunt - laugh
- /ɑː/: are - art - car - card - carpet - dark - far - garden - large - market - park - part - start
- /ɔː/: quarter - war
- area - Mary - parent - various
- With magic e: aware - care - compare - declare - prepare - rare - share - software - square - stare
- /æ/: apparent - character - charity - comparison - paragraph - parallel
- /ə/: arise - around - career - cigarette - preparation
- /æ/: barrier - carry - embarrass - marriage - marry - narrative - narrow
- /ɒ/: warrant - warranty
- /ə/: arrange - arrest - arrive
- /æ/: ad - add;
- /ɑː/: aren't - aunt;
- /eɪ/: brake - break; grate - great; male - mail; plane - plain; rain - reign; sail - sale; stake - steak; tale - tail; waste - waist; Wales - whales; way - weigh; wait - weight; wade - weighed
- /eə/: bare - bear; pair - pear;
- /ɔː/: clause - claws; pause - paws;
Different pronunciations in the same word[edit source]
- Africa/African - America/American - Australia/Australian - Austria/Austrian - average - character - language
Anticipated pronunciation difficulties depending on L1[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.
Many Spanish speakers will try, instinctively, to pronounce it either as /eɪ/ or as [a] (which sounds similar to /ʌ/ or /æ/). This is particularly problematic for words such as want, what or water or for the schwa.
Many cognates that have /eɪ/ in English have [a] in Spanish. If the word is not common, such as "matrix" (Spanish matriz) it is very likely that Spanish speakers will try to pronounce it with *. Even some loan words are transcribed using spelling pronunciation in Spanish. For example the spelling cáterin was proposed as a transcription of "catering", but * would be more similar to the English pronunciation.
- Diccionario panhispánico de dudas, cáterin.