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Chapter 1 About English Pronunciation

Some tips and advice about learning to pronounce English well. We also include some common pronunciation patterns and connections to English grammar, such as the indefinite article "a" or "an" before nouns, and regular past "-ed" verb endings. This chapter also contains some practice. Some readings with some unpredictable word pronunciation, and a short reading test to check all your basic sounds of English. Phonetic Chart

About English Tap's Pronunciation Reference Book

Pronunciation is not just the way we make the sounds of words but how the tone and stress change and make patterns throughout words and sentences. Take the sentences :
  1. "The high court has ruled that social workers weren't to blame for a child's death"
  2. "The high court has ruled that social workers were to blame for a child's death"


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The Alphabet and the sounds

There are 26 letters in the English alphabet but more than 44 different consonant and vowel sounds in speech. We use the alphabet to make patterns and combinations. The letter name is not the same as the letter sound and there is no single letter sound. Each letter may have a number of different sounds, especially in letter combinations.


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Phonetic Chants

This idea came from a recent lesson and so I dedicate this exercise to Ling. Each of these chants focuses on two vowels. A two-syllable word containing these two vowels is followed by a memorable and rhythmic phrase containing the keywords for those sounds or other words featuring those sounds.


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Phonetic Chart

These days we can usually listen to the actual sounds, but it is often useful to know these symbols and what sounds they refer to. If you know these symbols and sounds, you can understand more about how words are pronounced. These sounds are not absolutely fixed, as each regional accent will shift these sounds to a certain degree. For example the short -i- sound of FISH shifts towards the sound of EGG for Scottish speakers. See the section on Mergers.


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Practice Sentences for Reading and Pronunciation

There comes a point where increased loudness results in reduced clarity


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Pronunciation of Regular Past Verbs

Regular past verb pronunciation

  1. The sound before the -ed ending.
    The final verb sound of the past -ed root infinitive verb, for example: talk or miss determines the sound of the -ed ending
  2. When the verb before -ed ends in a t or d sound the -ed ending is pronounced t ɪ d
  3. When the verb does not end in a
    t or d ehe -ed ending is pronounced either d.gif or t according to which ever is easier.


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Consonant sound WITCH followed by vowels

Read these words: We, why, were, where, war. They all have different vowel sounds after the "W". Listen to these phrases and write what you hear.


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Chapter 2 English fixed vowel sounds

Practice by listening and repeating the sentences read by natives.

FISH - short :i vowel sound

Compare these two sounds. Make sure you do not merge them. Beware! These are actually different sounds, usually one is sounded for a shorter time but the real difference is in the sound. It should be possible to say words with the short :i sound stretched out and made longer, or say words with like tree very quickly. The listener should hear each as a different sound.


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TREE - long :i sound

This long vowel is made with the lips fixed slightly open in a wide flat position. The tongue is slightly raised and the tip is resting and touching just in the middle of the back of the front bottom teeth. The sound resonates toward the throat, and the back of the tongue is slightly raised near the throat.
Compare to the short-i sound of FISH


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Vowel sound CAT

Example words using other letters

plait (hair), bag, Can, black, Happy, sack, Saturday, thank, Have, man, Anchor, answer, Apple, handsome, Had, plan, Am, pack, pan and Land


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Vowel sound CAR

father, alms, arms, park, glass, card, garden, alarm, past, father, harder, bath, staff, army, bark, laugh, darling, fast, after, bar, star, class


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Vowel sound CLOCK

clock, trough, knowledge, pot, botch, sorry, hot, cost, stop, dog, cotton, pot, golf, bottom, wrong, octopus, spot, orange, on, lost, off, lock, rock, lot, sock


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HORSE (vowel)

Example words

organ, thaw, naughty, floor, ought, halt, broad, horse, drawer, fault, poor, walk, more, door, also, organ, horse, more, saw, more, alter, door, before, caught, call, story, important, thought, straw, orchestra, fall, reward, prawn, law, torn, floor, brought, fought, autumn, daughter, dwarf and launched.


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Vowel sound BULL - Look at that good book

Letter 'u'

bull, pull, put

Other letters

woman, wood, should, would, could, foot, could, would, soot, should, book, good, wood, look, hood, took, shook, hook, brook, goods, full


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How to pronounce the vowel sound of BOOT in English

Two soup spoons. Food, boot, flute, shoot, ...
How many more can you say?


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vowel sound COMPUTER

The schwa sound is soft and unstressed. It occurs twice in the "a Balloon.
Click on the pictures to hear these words. Where was the schwa sound?
What other objects have this sound in their name?


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Fixed Vowel sound BIRD

Have you heard the 'BIRD' word


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Egg head sound-vowel-egg.php This vowel is a short vowel. The mouth is held in a much wider lateral or smile position than for ɪ , and the bottom jaw is held slightly further open (down), and moves up slightly at the end of the sound. The tongue is held in the same position as for sound-vowel-fish.php . There is also an extra puff of air pushed out from the throat at the end of the production of this sound.
Lead is heavy metal pl
Not "To lead the way"

Beware!! This sound should not sound like @CAT Illegal Characters See the exercise Mergers CAT - EGG


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Vowel sound UP

Common mistakes

There are lots of words where the letter 'o' is sounded as ʌ

Example words

letter 'u'

pronunciation, up, cup, drum, butter, but, fun, us, mud, hunt, funny, cup, lunch, run

'Some -o- words

other, cover, love, money, done, son, above, other, brother

'Some -oo- words

blood, flood,

other letters

Courage, rough (/f/), country, tough, young, flourish


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Chapter 3 English Dipthong Vowel Sounds

Practice by listening and repeating the sentences read by natives.

Rain in Spain

bake, plane, came, face, date, make, ate, wake, paper, danger, trade.


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PHONE (dipthong vowel)

This dipthong sound is commonly merged with ɒ clock. Common words, such as won't, don't, most and only, contain this sound. Try not to merge these sounds. If you say I won't want one. these two words do not sound the same.


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BIKE (dipthong vowel)

I like to ride my bike.


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OWL (dipthong vowel)

How now brown cow. Woow!


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BOY (dipthong vowel)

Annoy that boy with the noisy toy.


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Dipthong vowel EAR

Do not fear. We are here. We can hear you.


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Dipthong sound CHAIR

Be careful when mixing the sounds eə ɜː and dʒ We should hear these sounds very distinctly in this sentence: "Where were you during the war?"


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Dipthong sound TOURIST

Not such a common sound in English. Can you say "European tourists" ?


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Television (consonant)

is the voiced minimal pair consonant of -sh'. It is made the same way in the mouth. The teeth are almost closed together. The lips are pushed forward. Lift the tongue tip slightly towards the roof of the mouth and allow the sides of the tongue to touch the inside of the side teeth. Blow a little air over the tip of the tongue while switching on voice (sound in the throat), at the same time.


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Every consonant sound we make can be described by the positions of the various parts of the mouth involved in articulating the sound. There are five main articulatory parts that must be described for every sound:


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Chapter 4 English Consonant Sounds

Practice by listening and repeating the sentences read by natives.

Constant sound PARROT

Examples - Play taboo word describing with these words. pie, apartment, envelope, party, apple, open, hope, people, ripe, pocket, opposite, hop, pub, paper, tap, plenty, copy, map, positive, happen, popular, stop, zipper, keep, possible, puppy, pen, tapping, tip,


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word stress

Word Stress is very important for good speaking and understanding of English. Word Stress is very important. You should understand word stress before you can listen to English spoken fast.


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Constant sound KEY

cork cat crack coloured soccer close black pack check rock making cork kangaroo pocket track kennel marked ink cat baker link kitchen barking crack kindergarten soccer check close packet take come rocket rock


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Constant sound VASE

This sound is different to w because it starts with some contact between the top and bottom parts of the front of your mouth. w can be pronounced without this initial contact.


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The consonant sound ZEBRA

Listen to these native speakers and repeat their sentences with the Z sound of the word "Zebra"


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Constant sound LEG

How to pronounce 'L' as in 'LEG' in English


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Constant sound RABBIT

Red lorry yellow lorry. Sometimes the letter 'r' modifies a vowel sound and is not pronounced as it is in the word red.


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Chapter 5 Long words and syllable stress

Learn and practice syllable stress and intonation.

Tongue Twisters

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked. If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, Where's the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?


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Homographs are words that are written the same way, with the same spelling, but which have different meanings.


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Please Call Stella - Sound Check

Please call Stella. Ask her to bring these things with her from the store: Six spoons of fresh snow peas, five thick slabs of blue cheese , and maybe a snack for her brother Bob. We also need a small plastic snake and a big toy frog for the kids. She can scoop these things into three red bags, and we will go and meet her on Wednesday at the train station.


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Homophones in English Pronunciation

Homophones sound the same but are different words. Sometimes they sound the same only in certain regions. For me aunt is not a homophone of ant, but more a homophone of aren't . For some in the Southern states of the USA. aunt and ant may be homophones.


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Syllable stress on long words

Long words have stress patterns. Usually one syllable is stressed more than the others. When words change to other parts of speech, for example, from verb to noun, the stress pattern often changes. Typically verbs have the stressed syllable towards the end of the word, while nouns and adjectives do not.


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Chapter 8 Tongue Twisters

Some of these sentences are difficult to pronounce. Can you read them?

The Cockney Accent

About the Cockney accent of East London. As featured in "My Fair Lady" and Dickens Novels etc., The accent still exists today although these days many parts of the South-East have an accent often called Estuary English, which is a kind of decendent of Cockney. Cockney Londoners are also known for their Rhyming slang


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Chapter 9 Accents

What do you know about accents? What is good and bad about accents?

Chapter 10 Some Pronunciation Problems

Mergers etc.,,

Mergers in English pronunciation

When we pronounce two distinct sounds in the same way so that the listener can not tell them apart, this is called a merger. We look at pairs of words which should sound different but often sound the same. Listen to the words pairs an then dictate each word pair to your teacher or partner and ask them to check your pronunciation by writing each word.


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The ship / sheep Merger. Confusing the sounds twenty and TREE

Word list

Listen. For each pair, decide which word you hear. Type your answer, in the comments below, as a string of question numbers and answers. Eg: "1a 2b 3a 4c 5a 6c"
Note: The sound is not always shorter for the -i- in ship. Listen for the different sound. When the short -i sound is shouted, it may be made longer, BUT it is still recognisable as a short -i from the different quality of the sound. (See the last example below )


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Chapter 11 Some Poems and practice

Poems and practice.

Dearest Creature - Chaos

We are going to test your knowledge of irregular and strange spellings in English. We will ask you to match some highlighted word spellings to the 44 basic sounds of English. For example the word plait (refering to hair) matches the sound æ Write the matching sound in capital letters. EG: Flea => TREE. It is useful to learn these keywords so that tutors can refer directly to sounds without having to write phonetic symbols, which are not easy to type on a computer keyboard.
Note: The letter -e at the end of a word, when preceded by a consonant letter can change the vowel sounds that come before it. Eg Tap, tape. Hat, hate. Rat, rate. In English the pattern of letters affects the sound, but there is no fixed sound for each letter a-z.


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Chapter 999

6 Subdirectories

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