A Sounds Diagram and Explanation

A Sounds

There are 5 common sounds for the letter A. These are:

* The Short A as in cat
* The Short A by N or M as in man
* The Long A as in rain
* the Open A as in water
* The Schwa as in apply

The Short A Sound

Create this sound by opening your jaw a lot and putting your lips wide apart (similar to a clown face). Your throat will be a little tight. This is not the most attractive sound of standard American, but it is important. As a short vowel, it will have simple spellings–no silent letters nearby.

Examples: asset, laptop, status

The Short A by N or M

When the short A sound is next to N or M, it changes a little bit. It sounds more like a Long A moving to Schwa. This slight twang comes from the Southern dialect, but it has become standardized through mass media.

Examples: animal, ambition, brand

The Long A Sound

For this sound, the lips are wide (like the Short A), but the jaw is not as open. You can fit the cap of a pen between your teeth. Because the jaw is not as open, the throat is not tight. Common spellings for this sound are ai, a_e, and ea. 

Examples: brain, trace, break

The Open A sound

Open your jaw and keep your lips relaxed. In standard American English, this sound is the same as the short O in hot. Common spellings are al, ar, au, aw, and wa.

However, on the East Coast, a different Open A sound is used. The jaw is less open and the lips are slightly rounded. Depending on your location, you may want to choose which sound is good for you. In this lesson, we will use the standard American sound.

Examples: fall, bar, author, law, water

The Schwa

Of course, the schwa is the simple u sound in up. Words with A that have this sound are listed in the Schwa lesson.

Examples: around, apply, instance
750 Business WordsA Sounds Main Page
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