The Letter A

You should recognise this letter: it's the letter 'A', the first letter of the English alphabet, so, if you've learnt your ABCs then it should be very familiar to you, if not, you might want to skip this video.

In English pronunciation we have long and short sounds: For example, teachers often say "A is for apple". Pardon? Apple? That's not an 'A' that's an 'a'.

So, 'A' is for apple, which means 'A' can make an 'a' sound, as in hat - mat - cat. We call it a short 'a'. "That fat cat in the hat on the mat." And apple isn't the only crazy fruit, there's banana, and what about orange, where on earth is the 'A' in that?

Of course we still use the sound 'A', in words like ape and angel, we call it a long 'A' and there's usually an 'E' involved somewhere, not always just usually, but what about water? Why isn't it waiter? Well that would be a problem when you wanted to ask the waiter for some water.

And let's not forget that 'A' can make an 'uh' sound too. In fact more than one letter can make this sound, it's the most common sound in English, (some people call it a schwa or a neutral vowel) but let's not get into that, it's 'uh'. You can hear this sound in words like sofa and zebra, and of course - alph 'uh' bet.

Then there are words like arm and art. 'A' is involved in making the 'ah' sound too and usually there's an 'R' involved.

But there are some even more confusing sounds. What about 'was'? Why isn't it 'waz' like cat and fat? Well in British English 'A' can take an 'o' sound, like swan, and was, and you just have to accept it unless you want to sound like a waz (you'll need the Urban dictionary for that one).

And let's not forget walk. Sounds like 'or', as in 'O' and 'R', but if you put an 'O' and an 'R' in there you end up with work! Try this one, "I walk to work". And take 'award', again it sounds like 'or', but you'd end up with 'a word', if you tried that trick. It doesn't seem fair really - oh yes - fair like air or hair, but then there's hare, care, stare and even pear, or pair. or pare, what a nightmare!

As I said, pronunciation can drive you crazy!

You learn the pronunciation of man, only to learn that woman is pronounced differently!

And even the English can't agree on how to pronounce 'A' in certain words; for example I say "glasses" but some people say "glasses", "castle / castle, grass / grass" - you get the idea. When you come across words like that, you have to decide on the pronunciation you want to use.

In the meantime, to get used to pronouncing the different sounds that 'A' can make, try learning this sentence:-

"I ate an apple, a banana and an orange as I sat on the sofa. After that I went for a walk in the park to feed the swans and get some fresh air."

Next time we'll look at the letter 'B'. You'll be glad to know it's not as complicated.

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Next Session - The Letter B - Coming soon


English Pronunciation .- The Letter A