Voiced alveolar approximant

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 | edit source]

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/

Phonotactics[edit | edit source]

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

Arabic speakers often find this phoneme difficult to pronounce, especially when used with other consonants, e.g. bridge [/brɪʤ/].

Spanish[edit | edit source]