Pronunciation Problems – 2 “EA”

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English pronunciation can be difficult!

One good example of this is the letters “EA”.  It’s a very common spelling combination (here’s a list of 4000 words with EA).  But what makes it tricky is there is no one way of pronouncing the letters.  What’s more some similar words can have different pronunciations.   Take “breath and breathe” for example.  The first is said with a short e sound and the second with a much longer sound like fed and feed.

There are in fact at least 6 common ways of pronouncing the letter combination EA.  Today in this mini-lesson we will be taking a look at these ways.

The 6 most common pronunciations

/i:/ or “ee”

This is the long “e” sound, like in sheep.  You can see it in words like increase and cheap.

/e/ or “eh”

This is the short “e” sound, like in red.  You can see it in words like heavy and sweat.

/ɜ:/ or “er”

This is another long sound, like in bird. You can see it in words like Earth and learn.

/eə/ or “air”

This is diphthong (2 sounds together), like in rare.  You can see it in words like  swear and yeah.

/Iə/ or “ear”

This is another diphthong, like in beer.  You can see it in words like fear and disappear.

/eI/ or “A”

This is our final diphthong, and it sounds like the name for the letter “A”, or like Cake.  You can see it in words like great.

Activity – Sorting words by pronunciation

Here are some common words with ea.  You need to divide them in to the different pronunciation categories.

beat hear dead pearl steak head bread please read (present) read (past) wear bear earn idea break dear meat early lead (verb) lead(metal) peace mean tear (verb) tear (noun) near cheat heat

Sort them into the categories below
You can see the answers at the bottom of the page.

/i:/ /e/ /ɜ:/ /eə/ /Iə/ /eI/
beat

.

.

The answers

/i:/ /e/ /ɜ:/ /eə/ /Iə/ /eI/
beat
cheat
heat
please
read (present)
meat
lead(verb)
peace
mean
dead
head
bread
lead (noun)
read (past)
pearl
earn
early
bear
tear
wear
hear
idea
near
tear (verb)
steak
break

 

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