Improve Your English Pronunciation – Minimal Pairs

There are many ways you can improve your English pronunciation. Here’s a great exercise you can do at home. It’s called a “minimal pair” exercise, because you only change one sound in a pair of words. The sound you change is the sound you need to practise. For example, in the minimal pair “light” and “right”, only the first sound changes. In the first word you need to say “l”, and in the second word you need to say “r”.

Some tips for minimal pair exercises:
– Start with one-syllable words first, then move on to words which have more than one syllable.
– Really listen to the different sounds. If there’s no change when you say the words, then you’re doing the exercise wrong.
– Use a mirror to make sure you’re moving the right muscles in your mouth.

Here are eight sets of minimal pair exercises, both for vowel sounds and for consonant sounds. Listen to the audio for the pronunciation, then try them yourself!

Minimal Pairs – Vowel Sounds

1. a / e
bat / bet
sat / set
mat / met
pan / pen
tan / ten

3. e / i
pet / pit
set / sit
let / lit
hem / him
pen / pin
fell / fill

5. a / uh
cap / cup
ran / run
bat / but
bad / bud
cat / cut
tan / ton

7. oh / or
dough / door
low / law
flow / floor
Joe / jaw
so / saw
bow / bore

2. i / i:
ship / sheep
bit / beat
knit / neat
chip / cheap
sin / seen

4. e / ay
met / mate
ate / eight
wet / wait
when / wane
get / gate
wren / rain

6. o / oh
wok / woke
not / note
chock / choke
clock / cloak
John / Joan
cot / coat

8. ah / er
park / perk
carb / kerb
bath / birth
shark / shirk
fast / first
barn / burn

Now listen to the audio.

Minimal Pairs – Consonants

1. b / p
ban / pan
bill / pill
bat / pat
bull / pull
buy / pie
best / pest

3. l / r
light / right
long / wrong
alive / arrive
led / red
glamour / grammar
climb / crime

5. s / sh
see / she
sell / shell
sip / ship
sigh / shy
lass / lash
mess / mesh

7. f / th
fin / thin
free / three
Fred / thread
frill / thrill
first / thirst
fat / that

2. b / v
bow / vow
bet / vet
best / vest
berry / very
bile / vile
boat / vote

4. v / w
vine / wine
vip / whip
veil / whale
vile / while
vest / west
vent / went

5. s / th
sink / think
sank / thank
sigh / thigh
sing / thing
some / thumb
sin / thin

8. n / ng
sin / sing
sinner / singer
thin / thing
pin / ping
pan / pang
ton / tongue


Now listen to the audio.


When you know that your pronunciation is correct, you feel more confident when you speak English. When you join the English Fluency Club, you get live group lessons to practise your speaking and your pronunciation.

Improve Your English Pronunciation - Minimal Pairs
Clare, Founder of The English Fluency Club

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