The letter A in English can be used to represent several different vowel sounds. The most common vowels spelled with A are /æ/ as in black cat, /ɔ/ as in caught law, and /ə/ as in such fun. You can get more help for the vowels in English by checking out the vowel category for this practice site, and on our vowels playlist.
When we use "a" as a word in English, as in a word or a friend, we pronounce it as "uh," vowel schwa /ə/.
Letter "A" is pronounced as "ay," /eɪ/, with a long stretched vowel. In words, the letter a can represent many different vowel sounds. Here are some rules for the most common pronunciations of letter A:
See more about spelling rules for vowels here.
In other contexts, letter A can represent many other vowel sounds. Watch the video below for a class on vowel sounds vs letters in which we talk about letter A:
Even more help for letter A sounds and spelling can be seen here: what-sounds-does-letter-a-say-in-english.html
Many people mispronounce the word says. Even though we have vowel ay /eɪ/ in the word say, says has vowel ɛ. This is the vowel in our anchor phrase red tent. Says rhymes with fez and rez.
Also make sure you use a /z/ sound on the end of the word. Say "sez" /sɛz/, not "s-ay-s" /ses/.
For more help with vowel /ɛ/, go to our practice for vowel /ɛ/.
For more help with final /z/ sounds, check out our practice for final /z/.
For more everyday mistakes, see our YouTube playlist and our Quick Fix Practice.
In American English, we have 15 vowel sounds but only 5 letters which we call vowels. The way we spell the 15 sounds is not consistent (read more about this here). But there are some simple rules that can help you know what vowel is in a word.
In stressed syllables, there are patterns for how vowel sounds are represented. When you are not sure what vowel is in word, the best method is to use a dictionary which uses IPA symbols to represent the vowels. Try these recommended online dictionaries:
In the stressed syllable of a word, if there is only one vowel letter (a, e, i, o, u), the vowel sound is usually the sound listed in the chart below.
For more help with American vowels, check out our Vowels Playlist on our Videos page.
When the stressed syllable of the word has 2 vowels, they usually say the vowel sounds listed in the chart below.
In today's lesson, we reviewed the American English vowels. I suggested learning "anchor words," or words to help you remember the vowel sounds and have a basis for comparison for new words.
You can look up any word in the dictionary and see the IPA symbol to know what the vowel is. I recommend the Oxford Learner's Dictionary.
You might find it helpful to use these similar and minimal pair words to listen for the differences between vowels. Look at the vowel quadrangle below and listen to the recording of these words.
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