The sounds of English and the International Phonetic Alphabet
This table contains all the sounds (phonemes) used in the English language. For each sound, it gives:
The symbol from the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), as used in phonetic transcriptions in modern dictionaries for English learners — that is, in A. C. Gimson's phonemic system with a few additional symbols.
The table represents British and American phonemes with one symbol. One symbol can mean two different phonemes in American and British English. See the footnotes for British-only and American-only symbols.
- Two English words which use the sound. The underline shows where the sound is heard.
- The links labeled Amer and Brit play sound recordings (in mp3 format) where the words are pronounced in American and British English. The British version is given only where it is very different from the American version.
If you would like to print the table, use the pretty printable version.
|1||In some (not many) dictionaries, the phoneme is written as (do not confuse with ), which is actually more appropriate, because in IPA does not correspond to the sound in met and bed.|
|2||In and , the is not pronounced in BrE, unless the sound comes before a vowel (as in answering, answer it). In AmE, the is always pronounced, and the sounds are sometimes written as and .|
|3||In AmE, and are one vowel, so calm and cot have the same vowel. In American-only transcription, hot is written as .|
|4||About 40% of Americans pronounce the same way as , so that caught and cot have the same vowel. See cot-caught merger.|
|5||has been traditionally written as in British sources. Today, is probably more appropriate for both BrE or AmE.|
|6||In , the is not pronounced in BrE, unless the sound comes before a vowel (as in dearest, dear Ann). In AmE, the is always pronounced, and the sounds are often written as .|
|IPA||what it means|
|The apostrophe symbol () is used to show word stress. Usually, it is placed before
the stressed syllable in a word. For example, |
is not a sound — it is a short way of saying that an is pronounced only in American English. For example, if
you write that the pronunciation of bar is
| ("medium i") means that you can pronounce or or something in between — a sound that is short like but sounds like . Examples: very |
| ("syllabic l") shows that the consonant is pronounced as a separate syllable (it sounds like
vowel). Examples: little
| ("syllabic n") shows that the consonant is pronounced as a separate syllable (it sounds like a
vowel). Examples: written
Does this page list all the sounds that you can hear in British and American English?
No. This page contains symbols used in phonetic transcriptions in modern dictionaries for English learners. It does not list all the possible sounds in American or British English.
For example, this page does not list the "regular t" (heard in this pronunciation of letter) and the "flap t" (heard in this one) with separate symbols. It groups them under a single symbol: . (In other words, it groups a number of similar sounds under a single phoneme, for simplicity. To understand how sounds are grouped into phonemes, read the article on phonemic transcription.)
So this page actually lists phonemes (groups of sounds), not individual sounds. Each symbol in the table can correspond to many different (but similar) sounds, depending on the word and the speaker's accent.
Take the phoneme in the above table. It occurs in the phonemic transcriptions of
The ASCII Phonetic Alphabet
The International Phonetic Alphabet is very popular, but there is a big problem with this alphabet: the IPA symbols are difficult to type on computers. Because of this, we've created the ASCII Phonetic Alphabet. It uses only symbols which you can type on your computer's keyboard.
Learning to pronounce the sounds
We offer software (PerfectPronunciation) which teaches learners to pronounce the most frequently used English words. It lets you listen to examples of English sounds, practice your pronunciation, and review your knowledge. PerfectPronunciation uses the ASCII Phonetic Alphabet.