English Pronunciation - What the 'a' letter can say

English Pronunciation tip- Sounds the ‘a’ Letter and Vowel Can Say

In thinking about this English pronunciation tip for sounds the ‘a’ letter and vowel can say, I need to first explain something.

If your background language is a phonetic language, then reading and pronouncing English can be quite confusing. A phonetic language is one where you write the words exactly as they are spoken, or what you see on the page is what you say. For example Chinese and Spanish.

In English one letter, can say several sounds and this can make English pronunciation tricky, especially in the case of the vowels.

Let’s have a look at what sounds the ‘a’ letter can say.

English Pronunciation Tip- Sounds the ‘a’ Letter and Vowel Can Say

The ‘a’ as in cat is the most common usage. I’ve put them in order from most common to least common below.

English Pronunciation- The 3 Sounds the ‘a’ Letter and Vowel Can Say- American English:

a /ae/ as in cat, can, hat, have

A /eɪ/ as in baby, make, rain

ah /ɑː/ as in father

 English Pronunciation- The 4 Sounds the ‘a’ Letter and Vowel Can Say- British and Australian English:

a /ae/ as in cat, can, hat, have (for a video lesson on this sound click here)

A /eɪ/ as in baby, make, rain

ah /ɑː/ as in father, bath, can’t

aw/or /ɔː/ as in all, fall, always- RULE-whenever an ‘a’ is followed by an ‘l’ letter it says ‘aw’

So how do you know when ‘a’ says which sound? It’s most common usage is ‘a’ as in cat, then A as in baby etc

If in doubt, you can say each of the ‘a’ sounds in the word you are trying to pronounce and see which word sounds right or familiar.

You can also look it up in a good dictionary and look at the phonetic notation.  And now, you already know the ‘a’ followed by ‘l’ rule for Australian and British English.

In my next training lesson, I will go into how you can tell when ‘a’ says it’s letter name -A. You don’t have to keep guessing – there actually are some tips and rules to help you know when ‘a’ says it’s name!

Best wishes, Esther

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