Pronunciation of [ər]

1. Pronounce the [a] as in father and, at the same time, curl your tongue up and back a little. You should hear the basic English [r] sound.

2. Now with your tongue in position for the [ə] sound, curl the tip of your tongue up and back a little, and pronounce [ə] and the [r] you made in Step 1. Do not let the tip of your tongue touch any part of your mouth.

3. Now pronounce the word bur [bər]

Pronunciation of [r] after the front vowels ([ɪ], and [ɛ])

1. Pronounce the vowel and the [ər] sound. For example, beer is pronounced [bɪər], and bear is pronounced [bɛər]

2. Try to pronounce the combination smoothly without stopping between sounds.

NOTE: We do not add the [ə] sound when the [r] is followed by another vowel sound. Compare the pronunciation of bear [bɛər] and berry [bɛrɪ].

Pronunciation of [r] after the back vowels ([a], [ɔ], and [ʊ])

1. Pronounce the vowel and [r] without the [ə] sound. For example, bar is pronounced [bar] and bore is pronounced [bɔr].


Pronunciation of bright [l] and dark [l]

The English [l] has two different qualities: before vowels it is "bright," and after vowels it is "dark." In both types the tip of the tongue touches the alveolar ridge (the ridge above the teeth). The dark [l] is pronounced with the tip of the tongue more spread out than the bright [l]. Additionally, the back of the tongue is high for the bright [l] and low for the dark [l].

Like the [r] above, we add an [ə] sound when an [l] sound comes after a front vowel ([a], [ɔ], and [ʊ]). For example, ball is pronounced [bɔl], but bell is pronounced [bɛəl].

You can use the links in the practice pages below to listen to examples of these sounds and practice repeating them.

[l] - [r] Practice Pages:

Back to Pronunciation Page