Learn how to pronounce 44 Sounds of English - with Phonetic Symbols and Keywords

Learn how to pronounce 44 Sounds of English


Introduction

English alphabet has 26 letters of the alphabet which represent 44 sounds. This means to say, one letter of the alphabet stands for more than one sound, and conversely, the same sound is represented by different letters of the alphabet. Thus, there is no one to one correspondence between the letters of the alphabet and the sounds they represent, which make English an unphonetic language. This also explains the need to be acquainted with IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) symbols.

This article takes you through a detailed understanding of the Sounds of English. As mentioned in the first paragraph, the 26 letters represent 44 sounds in English.

The 44 sounds include - 12 Vowel Sounds, 8 Diphthongs, and 24 Consonants Sounds.

The below tables explain to you all the Sounds of English as per the International Phonetic Association (IPA)

44 Sounds of English

Go through the following tables of 12 vowels sounds, 8 diphthongs and 24 consonant sounds with their respective keywords.

12 Vowel Sounds:

Symbols Initial Medial Final
/I:/, /i:/ eat beneath tree
/I/, /i/ it, in, inn bid me, he, she
/e/ egg, elephant dress, bed, head, many --
/æ/ act bad, mat --
/a:/ art, arm start, father car, bar
/ɒ/ odd lot, cot --
/ɔ:/ all tall, ball four, more, door
/u/ -- foot, good, put to, who
/u:/ Ooze goose two, boo, loo, too
/ʌ/ under, udder, utter but, cut, nut --
/3:/, /ə:/ urn, earn curl, furl, bird fur, cur
/ə/ about, again police, standard colour, mother, sister, butter

8 Diphthongs:

Symbols Keywords
/ei/ say /sei/, hate /heit/, rate /reit/, pain /pein/
/ai/ high /hai/, tie /tai/, die /dai/, lie /lai/
/ɒi/ boy /bɒi /, toy /tɒi/, coy /kɒi /
/əu/ no /nəu/, go /gəu/, row /rəu/, bow /b«u/
/au/ cow /kau/, now /nau/, how /hau/, bow /bau/
/iə/ beer /biə/, near /niə/, dear /diə/
/uə/ fewer /fjuə/, cure /kjuə/, tour /tuə/, sure /∫uə/
/eə/ bear /beə/, care /keə/, hair /heə,/ mare /meə/


24 Consonant Sounds:

Symbols Keywords Voiced/Voiceless
/p/ pen, copy, happen, cap, map voiceless
/b/ back, baby, job voiced
/t/ tea, tight, button voiceless
/d/ day, ladder, odd voiced
/tʃ/ church, match, nature voiceless
/dʒ/ judge, age, soldier voiced
/k/ key, clock, school voiceless
/g/ get, giggle, ghost voiced
/f/ fat, coffee, rough, photo voiceless
/v/ view, heavy, move voiced
/Ɵ/ thing, author, path voiceless
/ð/ this, other, smooth voiced
/s/ soon, cease, sister voiceless
/z/ zero, music, roses, buzz voiced
/ʃ/ ship, sure, national voiceless
/ʒ/ pleasure, vision voiced
/h/ hot, whole, ahead voiceless
/m/ more, hammer, sum voiced
/n/ nice, know, funny, sun voiced
/ŋ/ ring, anger, sung, bank voiced
/l/ light, valley, feel voiced
/r/ right, wrong, sorry, arrange voiced
/ј/ yet, use, yell, pupil voiced
/w/ wet, when, between voiced

RP Phonemes: Pronunciation Tips (video)

Watch this video from BBC Learning English completely and practice the sounds accordingly.

Pronunciation of sound ‘r’

  • If a word ends with ‘r’ we should not pronounce the ‘r’ sound.
  • If a word ends with ‘r’ and the next word begins with a vowel sound we need to pronounce the sound ‘r’.
  • If ‘r’ is followed by a consonant sound we should not pronounce the sound ‘r’.

Pronunciation of 'The'

‘The’ is pronounced as / ði / when it is followed by a vowel sound.
e.g.: / ði / orange or if it refers to any particular object.

‘The’ is pronounced as /ðə/ when it is followed by a consonant sound
for e.g.: This is /ðə/ book on Phonetics.

Sounds used in past tense

/t/, /d/, /id/

If the root word ends with a voiced consonant, the ‘d’ or ‘ed’ takes /d/ sound.
e.g.: listened, arranged, informed, killed, moved, turned, lived remained.

If the root word ends with /t/ and /d/ sound, the ‘ed’ takes /id/ sound.
e.g.: deserted, added, bonded.

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Sounds used in plural forms

We add ‘s’ or ‘es’ to make plural nouns and to express third person singular. This is pronounced in different ways /s/, /z/, /iz/.

If the root word ends with voiceless consonants, it takes /s/ sound.
e.g. packs, caps, helps

If the root word ends with voiced consonants or vowel sounds, it takes /z/ sound
e.g. bags, boys, girls

If the root word ends with /s/, /z/, / ʃ /, / tʃ / / dʒ/, it takes /iz/ sound
e.g. roses, benches, bushes, judges, passes

Practice yourself

Crossword

Complete this crossword with the phonemic spelling of these verbs. Use the symbols from the sound menu. Two of the verbs have been written for you.

put, fall, make, take, sing, pick, paid, meet, sail, taught, hurt, took, fight

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