English Pronunciation Practice: 30 Minimal Pairs To Practice The Vowel Sounds In English

Which of these sounds do you have trouble pronouncing in English? Minimal pairs are a great way to improve your English pronunciation. Each pair of words is similar except of 1 vowel sound. If you can’t tell the difference between the sounds, how can you pronounce them properly? Listen to each minimal pair to practice the English vowel sounds and repeat them with me.

Watch the video and tell me the top 3 English sounds you have trouble saying or understanding. Just let me know in the comments below. That way I can create more pronunciation videos with phrases and examples to help you improve the sounds you find difficult.

Some of the most common problems I see are trouble hearing and saying the differences in sound between these minimal pairs:

  • Short I vs. Long E (Ship vs. Sheep)
  • Short A vs. Short E (Bet vs. Bat)
  • All of the OU vs. AU sounds
  • Any vowels with the sound of the letter R
  • Words that end with B, D, T, and P

If you have trouble pronouncing these sounds…don’t worry. I’m planning on recording more videos to help you out with each individual sound.

Or if you notice other sounds that are difficult…let me know too. That way I can add them to my list of videos to create.

English Pronunciation Practice: Ship Or Sheep by Ann Baker

These minimal pairs are based on an ESL pronunciation book by Ann Baker called Ship or Sheep.

I used this book with my intermediate English students to practice their pronunciation when I first started teaching many years ago. It’s really good with lots of useful information.

If you are a student (or even a teacher) and have specific questions about the book…ask away in the comments below.

There is also a basic pronunciation book by the same author called Tree or Three. However, I’ve never used the basic book, so I can’t give you any personal insight based on it’s use.

But if it’s as good as the intermediate book Ship or Sheep, I think it can help you out.

English Pronunciation Practice: Minimal Pairs From The Video

Below you’ll find a list of the minimal pairs used in the video. You can print them off if you like to follow along with the video or to study later.

  1. sheep – ship
  2. tin – ten
  3. bet – bat
  4. bet – bait
  5. bat – bad
  6. cat – cut
  7. cat – cart
  8. cart – cut
  9. cut – curt
  10. cart – caught
  11. caught – cot
  12. caught – coat
  13. caught – curt
  14. coat – cot
  15. coat – coot
  16. darling – dialing
  17. air – “A”
  18. tail – toil
  19. tail – tell
  20. tail – tile
  21. tile – toil
  22. hour – are
  23. rot – lot
  24. pull – bull
  25. heart – art
  26. worse – verse
  27. worse – worth
  28. ass – as
  29. as – ash
  30. look – loop

Go ahead and record a video of you saying each of these words and add a link to your video in the comments below. That way others can comment and point out suggestions to help you improve your English pronunciation and reduce your accent.

Remember to tell me what sounds you want me to record more videos for. And write your questions in the comments below.

More ESL Resources

Ship or Sheep by Ann Baker  – Intermediate pronunciation book with minimal pair vocabulary words, stories, and dialogues to help you master difficult sounds in English to improve your pronunciation and reduce your accent.

Tree or Three by Ann Baker – Another book by the same author of Ship or Sheep…but this time for Basic English students who want to improve their pronunciation as well.

VIP English Club – Want more English lessons and exercises? Check out the mini-stories, lessons, and dialogues that we’ve created for our English students. Now, we are sharing them with you online too.

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