Together with the article on possible pronunciation difficulties, this page sets out some common (or not...) words teachers can use to help their students become more aware of how they can improve their pronunciation of the different sounds corresponding to words containing "ea", that is /e/, /ɜ:/, /i:/, /eə/, /ɪə/ and /ei/.
Depending on their mother tongue (L1), students may have difficulty distinguishing between these two sounds. More often than not, these supposed difficulties depend more on the interference of L1 than on the actual difficulties posed by English, and many, if not most students will greatly improve their pronunciation by simply becoming aware of certain differences - together with a minimum of practice.
- already - bread - breath - dead - death - head - lead* - instead - read* - ready - thread - threat - threaten - tread;
- early - earn - earth - heard - learn - search;
- beach - bean - beat - each - eat - heal - heat - lead* - meat - read* - steal - steam - stream - tea - teach - team - treat - wheat;
- bear - tear* - wear;
- beard - dear - ear - fear - gear - hear - near - rear - tear*;
- break - steak.
- bean/been - bear/bare - break/brake - dear/deer - earn/urn - heal/heel - hear/here - heard/herd - meat/meet - steak/stake - steal/steal - team/teem - wear/where.
Some curious contrasts
The words above marked with an asterisk can cause problems:
- lead vs lead - read vs read - tear vs tear.