The following tables
contain the phonetic symbols 
for the standard sounds used in English. There is one
table for most vowels and one table for most consonants,
as well as a third table for additional sounds. Along
with each symbol, there are two example words, with the
relevant sound highlighted. The first example is always
a very simple word that most learners will already know.
The second example is usually slightly more challenging.
After each symbol, there is a link to an illustrative
mp3. Each mp3 has the sound repeated three times on its
own, followed by the two examples. Most browsers will
play the mp3 automatically when you click the link. If
you have problems, right click on the link and download
the mp3. You can then listen to the example in a music
player such as iTunes or WinAMP.
All examples assume standard British English pronunciation
- sometimes known as “Queen’s English”,
“King’s English”, “Received Pronunciation”
and “BBC English”. Strangely, now that regional
accents have become fashionable, BBC English is one of
the few accents you are unlikely to hear from a modern
BBC presenter. Americans, and other ‘colonials’,
may find some examples confusing - if unsure, please listen
to the mp3 for that sound. Each file is approximately
30kB - about the same as a small image.
Note that because consonant sounds are by definition
whispered, it is extremely difficult to say those sounds
clearly and loudly on their own. Thus, I have added an
‘-er’ or schwa sound [mp3 link] on the
end of each consonant sound: I say [də]
, not [d].
Obviously when saying a word yourself, you do not add
that schwa sound after every consonant! 
The sound, or phoneme, associated
with each phonetic symbol [like those in the table below]
does not change from accent to accent, or language to
language, instead different symbols are used to write
the different pronunciations. For example, the word “fast”
has a long vowel sound in Queen’s English, but a
short vowel sound in American English (and Northern British
English!). Thus for King’s English, the pronunciation
of “fast” is written as [faːst];
and for American English, the pronunciation of “fast”
is written as [fæst].
Therefore, while your pronunciation of the example words
may well differ from ours - as demonstrated on the mp3s
- your pronunciation of the phonetic symbols themselves
should not differ significantly from ours!
Once you can recognise the phonetic symbols, you should
be able to look up and read the pronunciation of any word
in any dictionary [you need to learn some extra sounds/symbols,
not shown here, for many foreign languages]. 
including those imported from other languages 
[Note that phonetic symbols such as a
or ʊ may
be modernised to display as ɑ
a consonant is articulated, or spoken, involves controlling
and manipulating your breath leaving the mouth, using
the lips, teeth, tongue and the interior of the mouth,
as well as the speed and strength of the air flow.
Consonants are of two types, pulmonic and non-pulmonic,
though most languages only include the pulmonic type.
Pulmonic consonants are produced using pressurised air
expelled (outward-going) from the lungs, while non-pulmonic
consonants comprise ejective, implosive and click sounds.
Ejective and implosive sounds use glottalic airflow, while
clicks use velaric airflow.
Cross-section of the
human head, labelling components of the vocal tract
- Place of articulation
(where in the mouth a sound is made):
- Bilabial: articulated with both lips
Labiodental: articulated with both upper teeth and lower
Dental: articulated on or between
Alveolar: articulated with tongue tip on aveolar ridge
Postalveolar: articulated with tongue tip just behind
Retroflex: articulated curling backwards
with the mid-tongue at the hard palate. The tongue is
Velar: articulated with
the back of the tongue on the soft palate
Uvular: articulated with the back of the tongue at the
Pharyngeal: articulated with the back of the tongue
and the pharynx
Glottal: articulated at the glottis (vocal chords/folds)
- Method of articulation
(how the breathe flow is used to make a sound):
- Plosive/oral stop: complete obstruction of mouth
air flow followed by release
Nasal: complete obstruction of mouth air flow, with
velum open so air can escape from nose, humming
Trill: sound from rapid vibration of one articulator
Tap or flap: sound made by brief but complete closure
of vocal tract
Fricative: sound formed by narrowing the vocal tract
esurient to make turbulent airflow
Lateral fricative: fricative with air flow centrally
blocked, so escaping to the sides
Approximant: sound caused when vocal tract narrowed,
but not enough to form turbulent airflow
Lateral approximant: approximant with air flow centrally
blocked, so escaping to the sides
Consonants formed without pulmonic airflow. This type
of consonants instead are formed with velaric airflow
(clicks) or glottalic airflow (implosives and ejectives).
[this section is a beta release]
Velarisation is used to pronounce or supplement the
pronunciation of a consonant with an articulation at the
soft palate, the back of the tongue being raised towards
the soft palate during the articulation of the consonant.
Examples of velarised consonants in English are the ‘l’
in milk and in build, described as a
dark l. Further understanding may be helped by pronouncing
alternately the consonants ‘k’
and ‘t’, where ‘k’
is velar and ‘t’ is dental
. Other velar sounds are ‘g’, ‘Å‹’
- velar is a
place of articulation. It is comprised of two articulators
- the active articulator, which is the back of the tongue
and the passive articulator, which is the soft palate.
- Velarisation is a secondary
articulation where a high back
tongue position is added to a primary articulation.
- There are no velarised consonants in French.
In English, the ‘l’ in milk, described
as a dark l, is a velarised consonant. The light or
palatised version of ‘l’
is found in lawn.
In other languages, such as Russian and Irish [Gaeilge],
velarised consonants are systematically contrasted phonemically
with palatised consonants. When teaching Irish, the
terms ‘slender’ describes palatial consonants
and ‘wide’, velarised ones;while when teaching
Russian the terms ‘soft’ describes palatial
consonants and ‘hard’, velarised ones.
To be developed:
to add phonetic symbols to a webpage,
includes symbol descriptions
Unlike with Microsoft Word, copying and pasting these
symbols into the HTML source code for your website will
probably not work. To add phonetic symbols to an HTML
document, you must type special “HTML entities”.
An HTML entity is something that starts with an ampersand
(&) and end with a semicolon (;), which browsers translate
to a special character rather than displaying directly.
The following table contains the HTML codes (entities)
for all the symbols used above that aren’t just
standard alphabetic characters. For those with older setups
having trouble seeing these characters, please see
||name & description
||what to type
||extended sound mark
||tilde (sometimes called
a swung dash):
in this context, this symbol indicates a nasal vowel.
The tilde is frequently indicated over or across the
||carot: an upside-down
turned 180 degrees
a lowercase ‘a’ linked to a lowercase
|| schwa : an ‘e’
rotated 180 degrees
||a back-to-front lowercase
||lowercase Greek epsilon
||a small capital ‘i’
||an ‘o’ open
on the left-hand side,
or a back-to-front ‘c’
||an upside-down Greek
||engma: an ‘n’
with a ‘j’ hook at bottom right
||esh: like the integral
symbol used in mathematics
||theta: a lowercase Greek
||eth: a lowercase Greek
delta with a bar through its tail
||ezh: like a stylised
||open a: script ‘a’
||e -slash (front-rounded
‘o’ crossed by a diagonal
rounded vowel :
small capital letter ‘Y’
a lowercase ‘o’ linked to a lowercase
||palatal l: similar
to a mirror-image lambda
||IPA palatal n:
an ‘n’ with a ‘j’ hook at
||c cÃ©dilla: ‘c’
with a comma under the letter
similar to a lowercase Greek gamma with a looped foot
an inverted, reversed lower-case ‘h’
seem to be much of a serious difference between the
terms ‘phonetics’ and ‘phonics’.
However, for what it is worth:
Phonics is a term from the 17th century. It
is used to talk about the relationship between sound
and spelling, especially when teaching English reading
Phonetics is a term from the mid-19th century.
It is used to talk about the study of speech sounds.
Some users with older
operating systems and browsers may have problems seeing
the phonetic symbols properly. You may for example
see a box or a question mark instead of the symbol.
This problem should not occur on any post-2000 operating
system, such as Mac OSX, Windows 2000, Windows XP,
Windows Vista, etc.
For those having this problem, here is one solution.
Download and install the
Mozilla Firefox browser. Firefox is free and is
also by far the best browser available on the market
today. We would recommend using Firefox even if you
did not have this problem to solve.
You will also need to install a font that contains
the IPA (International Phonetics Alphabet) characters.
Here for example is Lucida
Sans Unicode in TTF (True-Type Font) format. Download
that file and copy it to your Fonts Folder - usually
C:\Windows\Fonts under older versions of Windows.
Next open your Firefox Preferences. In the Fonts area,
select "Lucida Sans Unicode" from the dropdown. You
should now be able to see phonetic characters, and
many others, without difficulty.
Note that is very important
when teaching reading that you do not add the
‘-er’ or schwa sound onto the end of consonants,
because it will tend to confuse and cause the words
to be synthesised incorrectly. For example, if you
teach your child to pronounce ‘c’ as [cə]
and ‘t’ as [tə],
then when they try to pronounce ‘cat’,
it will become [cəætə]
(ker-a-ter! ...kerater), rather than [cæt]
The pronunciation guides in
dictionaries also have accent marks over the emphasised
vowel sounds. The accent mark looks like an French
acute accent, like in é.
- This word is not clearly defined, having several
In general, diphthongs occur when two vowels merge
to form one combined vowel. This can also occur
as you speak quickly and separate vowels run together
An example of a monothong or pure vowel is heard
in ‘sum’, while a a diphthong vowel
is heard in ‘eye’.
The word diphthong comes originally from
the ancient Greek diphthongos. It became
dipthongus in Late Latin, then diptonge
in Middle English and diptongue in Middle
French, before ‘settling’ on diphthong.
Thus, it is acceptable to say this word as dip-thong
or as dif-thong.
- This page is not an explanation
of the International
Phonetic Alphabet [IPA] [.pdf file]. The list of
sounds used here is derived from that used by the Oxford
English Dictionary, to be found in the OED
help file, section 6.1.1 [.pdf, page 40 of 53 onwards].
Note that the IPA includes symbols for many languages,
not just those for English.
Sources for the html entities used are
International Phonetic Alphabet in Unicode
Entity Codes for Phonetic Symbols, Penn State University
Entities and pronunciations were verified from
sounds of English and the International Phonetic Alphabet
course in phonetics - sounds: consonants,
(Macromedia Flash required to hear the sounds),
as well as from personal and general knowledge.
background to German pronunciations.
- the symbol for the “syllabic
n” can also be displayed as ən.
This symbol indicates that the consonant n
is pronounced as a separate syllable, it sounds like
a vowel. Further examples are ‘written’
- of a consonant - forming a syllable by itself,
as the (n) in button [buht-n] or the (l) in bottle
of a vowel - dominating the other sounds in a syllable;
sonantal (a voiced sound).
- Many thanks to Limbic
for providing this mp3 recording for the sound of this
unusual syllable (and word).
- Primary and
- Primary articulation describes either
• the place and manner
in which a stricture is made for a consonant or
• the combination of lip shape, tongue contour
and larynx height used to produce a vowel. Note
that a primary articulation may still allow some
movement for other articulators that not involved
in the formation of that primary articulation. That
movement is the secondary articulation. It is no
less important than the primary articulation.
Types of secondary articulation are classed as labialisation,
palatalisation, velarisation, and pharyngealisation.
There can also be combinations, such as labiovelarisation.
Other minor types of secondary articulation are
rhotacisation and faucalisation.