Learn to improve your English pronunciation so you feel confident speaking in a variety of contexts. We’ll first look into the general rules, then we will look at American and British English Pronunciation.
In general, when you say a vowel you do not block the flow of air.
But when you say a consonant, you block the flow of air, for example by
- with vowel sounds we do not block the air flow
- with consonant sounds we block the air flow, at least partially
To say A you open your mouth.
To say B you close your mouth.
- pressing your lips together (as for B)
- pressing your bottom lip against your teeth (as for F)
- pressing your tongue against the top of your mouth (as for L)
Tips To Improve Your Pronunciation
- Follow creators from the area you want to sound like – remember accents are actually local – not national. Examples: YouTuber, Podcast or Pastor.
- Change all your devices to English.
- Join online communities of things you like – in English! Examples: Gardening groups on Facebook, sub-reddits and cooking apps.
- Look up the lyrics to your favorite song and listen it again, try to pick out the words and see how many you can identify.
- Try to watch an entire series in English – movies can be helpful but it is the repetition and familiarity of the series that can make a visible difference.
- Double vowels
- Sleep, Feel, Leave, Meet, Feed, Breed. Look, feet, beat…
- A single vowel
- Slept, Felt, Left, Met, Fed, Bred. Lock, fit, bit…
- Short-Vowel Rule: When one-syllable words have a vowel in the middle, the vowel usually has a short sound. Examples: cat, dog, man, hat, mom, dad, got. If the letter after the vowel is f, l, or s, this letter is often doubled. Examples: staff, ball, pass.
- Two-Vowels Together: When two vowels are next to each other, the first vowel is usually long (the sound is the same as the sound of the letter) and the second vowel is silent. Examples: meat, seat, plain, rain, goat, road, lie, pie.
Exception – ‘read’ which in past changes pronunciation but not spelling, though it is written ‘read’ it sounds like the color ‘red’.
3. The magic e – Vowel-Consonant-e Pattern: When a short word, or the last syllable of a longer word, ends in this pattern vowel-consonant-e, then the first vowel is usually long and the e is silent. Examples: place, cake, mice, vote, mute. When we add an ‘e’ to the end of a lot of words, especially short vowel sound words, it changes the sound and meaning. It makes the vowel sound long and say its alphabet name: “a = ay,” “e = ee,” “i = eye,” “o = oh,” ” u – you” This silent ‘e’ is magic! It changes the sound and meaning of words but remains silent.
- Fat – fate
- Bit – bite
- Bat – bait/bate
- Breath – breathe
- Bath – bathe
- Tap – tape
- Boot – bot
- Mat – mate
- Rid – ride
- Hug – huge
- Rob- robe
- Cut – cute
- At – ate
- Quit – quite/quiet
- Sit – site
- On – one
- Hat – hate
- Mad – made
- Us – use
- Cod – code
Exceptions: love, glove, above, oven, cover, have, to live, come, some have short vowel sounds.
4. Y as a long I: The letter y makes the long sound of i when it comes at the end of a short word that has no other vowel. Examples: cry, try, my, fly, by, hi.
5. Y as a long E: When y or ey ends a word in an unaccented syllable, the y has the long sound of e. Examples: money, honey, many, key, funny.
6. I before E: Write i before e when the sound is long e except after the letter c. Examples: relieve, relief, reprieve. When there is a c preceding, then it is ei : receipt, receive, ceiling, deceive, conceive.
7. E before I: Write e before i when the sound is long a. Examples: weight, freight, reign. Another way to remember this is: “I before e except after c, or when sounding like a as in neighbor and weigh.” When the ie/ei combination is not pronounced ee, it is usually spelled ei.
8. Oi or Oy: Use oi in the middle of a word and use oy at the end of a word. Examples: boil, soil, toil, boy, toy.
9. Ou or Ow: Use ou in the middle of a word and use ow at the end of words other than those that end in n or d. Examples: mouse, house, found, mount, borrow, row, throw, crow.
10. Double Consonants: When b, d, g, m, n, or p appear after a short vowel in a word with two syllables, double the consonant. Examples: rabbit, manner, dagger, banner, drummer.
11. The ch sound: At the beginning of a word, use ch. At the end of a word, use tch. When the ch sound is followed by ure or ion, use t. Examples: choose, champ, watch, catch, picture, rapture.
If this all looks like a lot, do not fret for you are in good company. This poem was written by Dr Gerald Nolst Trenit, who was a Dutch observer of English and wrote under the pseudonym Charivarius. “The Chaos” is a poem demonstrating the irregularity of English spelling and pronunciation. Gerard Nolst Trenit was a writer, traveler, and teacher.
‘THE CHAOS’ – A POEM OF ENGLISH PRONUNCIATION
by GEORGE NOLST TRENITÉ (1870–1946)
Dearest creature in creation
Studying English pronunciation,
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse and worse.
I will keep you, Susy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy;
Tear in eye, your dress you’ll tear;
Queer, fair seer, hear my prayer.
Pray, console your loving poet,
Make my coat look new, dear, sew it!
Just compare heart, hear and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word.
Sword and sward, retain and Britain
(Mind the latter how it’s written).
Made has not the sound of bade,
Say—said, pay—paid, laid but plaid.
Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as vague and ague,
But be careful how you speak,
Say: gush, bush, steak, streak, break, bleak,
Previous, precious, fuchsia, via,
Recipe, pipe, studding-sail, choir;
Woven, oven, how and low,
Script, receipt, shoe, poem, toe.
Say, expecting fraud and trickery:
Daughter, laughter and Terpsichore,
Branch, ranch, measles, topsails, aisles,
Missiles, similes, reviles.
Wholly, holly, signal, signing,
Same, examining, but mining,
Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
Solar, mica, war and far.
From ‘desire’: desirable—admirable from ‘admire’,
Lumber, plumber, bier, but brier,
Topsham, brougham, renown, but known,
Knowledge, done, lone, gone, none, tone,
One, anemone, Balmoral,
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel.
Gertrude, German, wind and wind,
Beau, kind, kindred, queue, mankind,
Tortoise, turquoise, chamois-leather,
Reading, Reading, heathen, heather.
This phonetic labyrinth
Gives moss, gross, brook, brooch, ninth, plinth.
Have you ever yet endeavoured
To pronounce revered and severed,
Demon, lemon, ghoul, foul, soul,
Peter, petrol and patrol?
Billet does not end like ballet;
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet.
Blood and ﬂood are not like food,
Nor is mould like should and would.
Banquet is not nearly parquet,
Which exactly rhymes with khaki.
Discount, viscount, load and broad,
Toward, to forward, to reward,
Ricocheted and crocheting, croquet?
Right! Your pronunciation’s OK.
Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve,
Friend and ﬁend, alive and live.
Is your R correct in higher?
Keats asserts it rhymes Thalia.
Hugh, but hug, and hood, but hoot,
Buoyant, minute, but minute.
Say abscission with precision,
Now: position and transition;
Would it tally with my rhyme
If I mentioned paradigm?
Twopence, threepence, tease are easy,
But cease, crease, grease and greasy?
Cornice, nice, valise, revise,
Rabies, but lullabies.
Of such puzzling words as nauseous,
Rhyming well with cautious, tortious,
You’ll envelop lists, I hope,
In a linen envelope.
Would you like some more? You’ll have it!
Aﬃdavit, David, davit.
To abjure, to perjure. Sheik
Does not sound like Czech but ache.
Liberty, library, heave and heaven,
Rachel, loch, moustache, eleven.
We say hallowed, but allowed,
People, leopard, towed but vowed.
Mark the diﬀerence, moreover,
Between mover, plover, Dover.
Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
Chalice, but police and lice,
Camel, constable, unstable,
Principle, disciple, label.
Petal, penal, and canal,
Wait, surmise, plait, promise, pal,
Suit, suite, ruin. Circuit, conduit
Rhyme with ‘shirk it’ and ‘beyond it’,
But it is not hard to tell
Why it’s pall, mall, but Pall Mall.
Muscle, muscular, gaol, iron,
Timber, climber, bullion, lion,
Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, chair,
Senator, spectator, mayor,
Ivy, privy, famous; clamour
Has the A of drachm and hammer.
Pussy, hussy and possess,
Desert, but desert, address.
Golf, wolf, countenance, lieutenants
Hoist in lieu of ﬂags left pennants.
Courier, courtier, tomb, bomb, comb,
Cow, but Cowper, some and home.
‘Solder, soldier! Blood is thicker’,
Quoth he, ‘than liqueur or liquor’,
Making, it is sad but true,
In bravado, much ado.
Stranger does not rhyme with anger,
Neither does devour with clangour.
Pilot, pivot, gaunt, but aunt,
Font, front, wont, want, grand and grant.
Arsenic, speciﬁc, scenic,
Relic, rhetoric, hygienic.
Gooseberry, goose, and close, but close,
Paradise, rise, rose, and dose.
Say inveigh, neigh, but inveigle,
Make the latter rhyme with eagle.
Mind! Meandering but mean,
Valentine and magazine.
And I bet you, dear, a penny,
You say mani-(fold) like many,
Which is wrong. Say rapier, pier,
Tier (one who ties), but tier.
Arch, archangel; pray, does erring
Rhyme with herring or with stirring?
Prison, bison, treasure trove,
Treason, hover, cover, cove,
Perseverance, severance. Ribald
Rhymes (but piebald doesn’t) with nibbled.
Phaeton, paean, gnat, ghat, gnaw,
Lien, psychic, shone, bone, pshaw.
Don’t be down, my own, but rough it,
And distinguish buﬀet, buﬀet;
Brood, stood, roof, rook, school, wool, boon,
Worcester, Boleyn, to impugn.
Say in sounds correct and sterling
Hearse, hear, hearken, year and yearling.
Evil, devil, mezzotint,
Mind the Z! (A gentle hint.)
Now you need not pay attention
To such sounds as I don’t mention,
Sounds like pores, pause, pours and paws,
Rhyming with the pronoun yours;
Nor are proper names included,
Though I often heard, as you did,
Funny rhymes to unicorn,
Yes, you know them, Vaughan and Strachan.
No, my maiden, coy and comely,
I don’t want to speak of Cholmondeley.
No. Yet Froude compared with proud
Is no better than McLeod.
But mind trivial and vial,
Tripod, menial, denial,
Troll and trolley, realm and ream,
Schedule, mischief, schism, and scheme.
Argil, gill, Argyll, gill. Surely
May be made to rhyme with Raleigh,
But you’re not supposed to say
Piquet rhymes with sobriquet.
Had this invalid invalid
Worthless documents? How pallid,
How uncouth he, couchant, looked,
When for Portsmouth I had booked!
Zeus, Thebes, Thales, Aphrodite,
Paramour, enamoured, ﬂighty,
Acquiesce, and obsequies.
Please don’t monkey with the geyser,
Don’t peel ’taters with my razor,
Rather say in accents pure:
Nature, stature and mature.
Pious, impious, limb, climb, glumly,
Worsted, worsted, crumbly, dumbly,
Conquer, conquest, vase, phase, fan,
Wan, sedan and artisan.
The TH will surely trouble you
More than R, CH or W.
Say then these phonetic gems:
Thomas, thyme, Theresa, Thames.
Thompson, Chatham, Waltham, Streatham,
There are more but I forget ’em—
Wait! I’ve got it: Anthony,
Lighten your anxiety.
The archaic word albeit
Does not rhyme with eight—you see it;
With and forthwith, one has voice,
One has not, you make your choice.
Shoes, goes, does. Now ﬁrst say: ﬁnger;
Then say: singer, ginger, linger.
Real, zeal, mauve, gauze and gauge,
Marriage, foliage, mirage, age,
Hero, heron, query, very,
Parry, tarry, fury, bury,
Dost, lost, post, and doth, cloth, loth,
Job, Job, blossom, bosom, oath.
Faugh, oppugnant, keen oppugners,
Bowing, bowing, banjo-tuners
Holm you know, but noes, canoes,
Puisne, truism, use, to use?
Though the diﬀerence seems little,
We say actual, but victual,
Seat, sweat, chaste, caste, Leigh, eight, height,
Put, nut, granite, and unite.
Reefer does not rhyme with deafer,
Feoﬀer does, and zephyr, heifer.
Dull, bull, Geoﬀrey, George, ate, late,
Hint, pint, senate, but sedate.
Gaelic, Arabic, paciﬁc,
Science, conscience, scientiﬁc;
Tour, but our, dour, succour, four,
Gas, alas, and Arkansas.
Say manoeuvre, yacht and vomit,
Next omit, which diﬀers from it
Bona ﬁde, alibi
Gyrate, dowry and awry.
Sea, idea, guinea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria.
Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean,
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.
Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion with battalion,
Rally with ally; yea, ye,
Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, key, quay!
Say aver, but ever, fever,
Neither, leisure, skein, receiver.
Never guess—it is not safe,
We say calves, valves, half, but Ralf.
Starry, granary, canary,
Crevice, but device, and eyrie,
Face, but preface, then grimace,
Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.
Bass, large, target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, oust, joust, and scour, but scourging;
Ear, but earn; and ere and tear
Do not rhyme with here but heir.
Mind the O of oﬀ and often
Which may be pronounced as orphan,
With the sound of saw and sauce;
Also soft, lost, cloth and cross.
Pudding, puddle, putting. Putting?
Yes: at golf it rhymes with shutting.
Respite, spite, consent, resent.
Liable, but Parliament.
Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew, Stephen,
Monkey, donkey, clerk and jerk,
Asp, grasp, wasp, demesne, cork, work.
A of valour, vapid vapour,
S of news (compare newspaper),
G of gibbet, gibbon, gist,
I of antichrist and grist,
Diﬀer like diverse and divers,
Rivers, strivers, shivers, ﬁvers.
Once, but nonce, toll, doll, but roll,
Polish, Polish, poll and poll.
Pronunciation—think of Psyche!—
Is a paling, stout and spiky.
Won’t it make you lose your wits
Writing groats and saying ‘grits’?
It’s a dark abyss or tunnel
Strewn with stones like rowlock, gunwale,
Islington, and Isle of Wight,
Housewife, verdict and indict.
Don’t you think so, reader, rather,GEORGE NOLST TRENITÉ (1870–1946)
Saying lather, bather, father?
Finally, which rhymes with enough,
Though, through, bough, cough, hough, sough, tough?
Hiccough has the sound of sup.
My advice is: GIVE IT UP!