Lesson 3 – Vowels /ɑ/, /ɔ/, /ʊ/, /u/, /ʌ/, /ə/

In this lesson we’ll be continuing to learn the vowel sounds.


Can you read the following sentences:

  • hi its sɪkstin ɛgz ɛvri wik
  • mɛri ɛn tɪm kɛn bi hæpi ɪn fræns
  • ɪz hi rɛdi tu it?

Review the American English phonetic chart:


And review the British English vowels:


Some of the symbols in these two charts are not official IPA symbols. That creates some confusion. Here is a chart comparing the vowels in American and British English. The ones marked in grey have either different sounds or different symbols.


The /ɑ/ sound

In British English this is written with two dots as /ɑː/ because it is a long sound. In American English sometimes it is long and sometimes it is short. Also note that in British English, words with “ar” in them are also pronounced /ɑː/. However, in American English we will study these in the /ɑr/ section.


father, on, top, ma, dog, dock, cloth, Bob, mom


  • hat, hot
  • an, on
  • Ma’am, mom
  • add, odd


  • Tom ‘n Toms
  • on a log
  • odd or even


Note the words that have the /ɑ/ sound. What are they?


The /ɔ/ sound

This sound is a little interesting in American English because not all Americans use it. Many replace it with the /ɑ/ sound (as you may have noticed in the video above).

The following map comes from this link. Some Americans say cot /kɑt/ and caught /kɔt/ differently while others say cot /kɑt/ and caught /kɑt/ the same.

Although the percentage of people who use the /ɔ/ sound is a slight majority (60%), it is interesting to note that it occurs more in regions that are known for non-standard American English (the south and east). That said, /ɔ/ is an accepted part of standard American English. Whether you use /ɔ/ or /ɑ/ is not very important. Most Americans will not notice the difference.

I will teach the /ɔ/ sound in this class, but in my natural dialect I am among those who don’t use it.



ought, caught, thought, talk, walk, call, daughter


  • cot, caught
  • Don, Dawn
  • dog, dog
  • talk, talk
  • daughter, daughter

The /ʊ/ sound


good, book, look, should, push, would, could, put, woman, wood


  • get a good look
  • put the wood there
  • I would if I could

Tongue twister

How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

The /u/ sound


food, mute, cube, rude, tooth, blue, ooze, shoot, school, YouTube


  • should, shewed
  • root, root
  • roof, roof
  • look, Luke
  • full, fool


  • new moon
  • oodles of noodles
  • a bag of tools
  • you too


The /ʌ/ sound


fun, up, sun, uh-huh, under, bus, judge, money, shut, love


  • fun, fawn
  • up, op
  • shut, shot
  • cup, cop
  • thud, thawed


  • fun in the sun
  • run around
  • hustle and bustle
  • good luck
  • Sunday, Monday

Nursery Rhyme

The /ə/ sound

This is also called a schwa. It is similar to /ʌ/ but is only in unstressed syllables.


above, delicious, panda, along, problem, anthem, the, Cuba, America


  • you and me
  • an apple
  • a bear
  • to the store
  • Jack and Jill
  • Mongolia, China, Russia, and Korea


Use your app to practice at least 100 sounds from i, ɪ, ɛ, æ, ɑ, ɔ, ʊ, u, ʌ, ə.

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