Pronunciation exercises


We are judged by our speech. If we clip syllables, run words together, or pronounce them incorrectly, we shall merit the criticism of being careless or even ignorant.

Yet clear enunciation and correct pronunciation are sometimes difficult. We learn most words by hearing others say them, and, if we do not hear the true values given to the different syllables, we shall find it hard to distinguish the correct from the incorrect forms.

Children whose parents speak a foreign language usually have to watch their speech with especial care; Germans, for example, find difficulty in saying th and Irish people in saying oi as in oil.

The exercises in this chapter are given for the purpose of correcting such habits. The words in the exercises should be pronounced repeatedly until the correct forms are instinctive.

Train the ear to hear the difference between sounds, as in just and in jest. Don't slide over the final consonant in such words as going and reading. Watchwords containing wh. The dictionary tells us that where was originally written hwar, the h coming before the w; and we still pronounce it so, although we write the w before the h.

The word whether is of the same kind. The dictionary tells us that it was first spelled hweder. Such words should be carefully noted and their pronunciation practiced.

Then there is the habit of slurring syllables. We may understand what is meant by the expression "C'm' on" or "Waja say?", but most of us would prefer not to be included in the class of people who use either. Correct speech cannot be mastered without an effort.

Diacritical Marks

Although an a is always written a, it is not always given the same quality or length of sound. When we discover a new word, it is important that we know exactly the quality to give each of the vowels in it. For this purpose, diacritical marks have been invented. They are illustrated in the following list from Webster's International Dictionary.

Transcriber's Note: Due to the constraints of HTML, a letter with a tack above such as cannot be displayed. For this reason [+x] has been used to denote a letter with a tack above it.

ā as in āte, fāte, lāb´or
[+a] " " sen´[+a]te, del´ic[+a]te, [+a]e´rial
â " " câre, shâre, pâr´ent
ă " " ăm, ădd, răn´dom
ä " " ärm, fär, fä´ther
ȧ " " ȧsk, grȧss, pȧss, dȧnce
" " fi´na̠l, in´fa̠nt, guid´ānce
" " a̤ll, a̤we, swa̤rm, ta̤lk
ē " " ēve, mēte, serēne´
[+e] " " [+e]vent´, d[+e]pend´, soci´[+e]ty
ĕ " " ĕnd, mĕt, ĕxcuse´, ĕfface´
" " fẽrn, hẽr, ẽr´mine, ev´ẽr
e " " re´cent, de´cency, pru´dence
ī " " īce, tīme, sīght, inspīre´
[+i] " " [+i]dea´, tr[+i]bu´nal, b[+i]ol´ogy
ĭ " " ĭll, pĭn, pĭt´y, admĭt´
ō " " ōld, nōte, ō´ver, prōpose´
[+o] " " [+o]bey´, t[+o]bac´co, sor´r[+o]w
ô " " ôrb, lôrd, ôr´der, abhôr´
ŏ " " ŏdd, nŏt, tŏr´rid, ŏccur´
ū " " ūse, pūre, dū´ty, assūme´
[+u] " " [+u]nite´, ac´t[+u]ate, ed[+u]ca´tion
" " rṳde, rṳ´mor, intrṳde´
" " fụll, pụt, fụlfill´
ŭ " " ŭp, tŭb, stŭd´y
û " " ûrn, fûr, concûr´
" " pit´y̆, in´jury̆, divin´ity̆
o͞o " " fo͞ol, fo͞od, mo͞on
o͝o " " fo͝ot, wo͝ol, bo͝ok
ou " " out, thou, devour´
oi " " oil, noi´sy, avoid´


ā is called long a, and is marked with the macron
ă is called short a, and is marked with the breve
â is called caret a, and is marked with the caret
ä is called Italian a, and is marked with the diaeresis
ȧ is called short Italian a, and is marked with the dot
ẽ is called tilde e, and is marked with the tilde or wave

Exercise: Vowels

Of the twenty-six letters in the alphabet, how many are vowels? Name them. What are the other letters called?

Compare the ă in hat and the ā in hate. Which has more nearly the sound of a in the alphabet? This is called the natural or long sound of the vowel. The other is called the short sound.

Drop the e from hate. Explain the result.

Name other monosyllables ending in e and containing the long a sound.

Explain the difference in pronunciation between Pete, pet, ripe, rip, hope, hop, cube, cub.

Find other monosyllables ending in e and containing a long vowel that becomes short if the e is dropped.

Monosyllables ending in silent e usually contain a long vowel sound, which becomes short when the final e is dropped.

Exercise 1

Pronounce carefully the following words containing the short Italian a:

advȧnce clȧss lȧnce plȧster
advȧntage contrȧst lȧst pȧstor
ȧfter enchȧnt mȧsk prȧnce
bȧsket Frȧnce mȧster rȧfter
brȧnch glȧnce mȧstiff shȧft
brȧss glȧss pȧss surpȧss
chȧff grȧss pȧst tȧsk

Exercise 2

Pronounce the following carefully, noting each a that is marked: [10]

hälf ideȧ cälm audācious
pȧth cȧn't āpricot ȧghȧst
ȧsk cătch mȧdrăs ălgebrȧ
fäther v[+a]cātion ăgile forbăde
dȧnce extrȧ cȧst trȧnce
lȧss cȧsket grȧnt āviātion

Exercise 3

Pronounce the vowel o in the following very carefully. Don't give the sound feller or fella when you mean fellow.

fellow swallow theory borrow
potato follow position heroism
window original factory donkey
pillow evaporate ivory memory
chocolate mosquito licorice oriental

Exercise 4

The vowel u needs particular attention. When it is long, it is sounded naturally, as it is in the alphabet. Do not say redooce for reduce.

reduce picture educate figure
produce stupid judicial duty
conducive student calculate accumulate
endure genuine curiosity Tuesday
duration induce regular particular
singular avenue tune institute
nutriment constitution culinary January
revenue introduce opportunity manufacture

Exercise 5

Using diacritical marks indicate the value of the vowels in the following. Try marking them without first consulting a dictionary. After you have marked them, compare your markings with those used in a dictionary.

pupil different diacritical gigantic
alphabet several radiating gymnasium
natural letter Wyoming system
result eraser typical merchant


Exercise 6

Pronounce carefully, noting that in each word at least one consonant is silent, and sometimes a vowel as well. Draw an oblique line through the silent letter or letters in each.

through chasten sword island
although often fasten daughter
wrong soften calf might
yacht subtle hasten bouquet
gnaw almond naughty honest
psalm glisten thumb palm
whistle salve should knack
salmon chestnut knowledge castle
answer folks listen thigh
knot right debt honor

Exercise 7

Pronounce the following, paying particular attention to the vowels. Distinguish between the meanings of the words in each group.

accept bile least prevision
except boil lest provision
affect carol eleven poor
effect coral leaven pure
addition descent neither radish
edition dissent nether reddish
assay emerge pasture sentry
essay immerge pastor century
baron Francis pillar sit
barren Frances pillow set
been jest point wrench
bean just pint rinse

Exercise 8

Enunciate the consonant sounds carefully in the following. Distinguish between the meanings of the words in each group.

acts close treaties rows
ax clothes treatise rouse
advice crossed princes rues
advise across princess ruse
alms formerly prince either
elms formally prints ether
bodice grays price running
bodies grace prize ruin
cease lose recent walking
seize loose resent walk in
chance plaintive sects weather
chants plaintiff sex whether
does pair news worst
dose payer noose worsted (yarn)

Exercise 9

Pronounce the following, making sure that each syllable is correct. Guard against slurring the words in the last column.

been such barrel Did you?
gone put faucet Don't you?
to with suburb Go on.
for tiny hearth Our education
aunt and nothing You are
far poem office You're not
our catch peril We're coming
kept toward forbade They're coming
says donkey spirit What did you say?
rid again semi Where are you going?
since against scared Where have you been?
sleek honest saucy I want to go.
creek savage turnip I'm going to go.
where swept roof To-morrow morning
boil velvet proof Next month
hoist direct hydrant Last Saturday

Exercise 10

Enunciate carefully:

salary gentleman supple gymnasium
because library subtle perspiration
ideal wrestle italic clapboards
suite vessel insect cupboard
thirty friendship orchid archangel
tomato judgment hovel candelabra
grimy cowardice several extraordinary
patron miserable pumpkin civilization
omelet guarantee accurate horseshoe
hundred gelatine guardian laboratory
coupon glycerine delinquent tenacious
awkward paraffine secretary measure
hurrah portrait audacious February
pigeon mercantile conquer cellar
history juvenile conquest perfect
diamond thousand congress grandmother
asylum overalls licorice generally

Exercise 11

Be especially careful of the sounds th and wh. Add no syllable to a word and omit none. Consult a dictionary for any word below about which you are not certain:

when length diphthong generally
where strength diphtheria forget
while height anesthetic recognize
wharf width betrothal hungry
which depth theory geography
wheel there theme instead
wheeze them arithmetic isolated
why eleventh bathe writing
whiff twelfth lathe kettle
whence thought believe language
whet throat bronchitis leisure
what wreaths government volume
whale paths courteous column
wheat months different always
wheedle mouths engine once
[14]whelp myths English twice
whimper breadths surprise arctic
whip moths deaf Italian
whit bath children picture
whither earth cruel often

Exercise 12 - Homonyms

A homonym is a word having the same sound as another but differing from it in meaning. Use each of the following in a sentence to show its meaning.

aloud draft fowl principal
allowed draught foul principle
ascent faint gate peal
assent feint gait peel
aught canvas great quire
ought canvass grate choir
bad cereal hew seen
bade serial hue scene
bale cession kernel soul
bail session colonel sole
berry cite leased strait
bury site least straight
boy coarse lesser stair
buoy course lessor stare
by compliment mite sweet
buy complement might suite
council feign miner there
counsel fain minor their
current flour need wood
currant flower knead would

Exercise 13

Do the same with the following:

aisle clause kill sail
[15]isle claws kiln sale
awl climb key ring
all clime quay wring
base draught lie serge
bass draft lye surge
blew dew medal sole
blue due meddle soul
bough done peer shone
bow dun pier shown
bread dual pore steel
bred duel pour steal
bear flue profit stationary
bare flew prophet stationery
bridal freeze quarts wade
bridle frieze quartz weighed
capital guilt rest wave
capitol gilt wrest waive
ceiling heard root wrap
sealing herd route rap

Exercise 14 - Syllabication

What is a syllable?

Choose a word and notice that every vowel sound in it makes a syllable. Therefore, you never have two vowels in one syllable unless the two are pronounced as one sound.

In pronouncing notice carefully to which syllable a consonant belongs; as in dif-fer-ent, beau-ti-fy, dai-sy.

Divide the following words into syllables. If you cannot decide with which syllable a consonant belongs, consult a dictionary.

paper grocer rotate mystery
tomato erect repeat regular
vinegar polish general arithmetic

If a syllable, especially an accented syllable, ends in a vowel, what is usually the length of the vowel?

If the syllable ends in a consonant, what is usually the length of the vowel of the syllable?

When a consonant is doubled, the division is usually made between the two letters; as,

blot-ter skip-ping remit-tance
neces-sary throt-tle span-ning

As a rule, a prefix constitutes one syllable; as,

pro-long pre-fer con-stant de-fect ad-mit
re-ceive se-lect dis-trust e-merge im-merse

As a rule, a suffix constitutes one syllable; as,

labor-er soft-ly beauti-fy selec-tion
mole-cule revolution-ist percent-age fanat-ic

When two or more letters together give one sound, they must not be divided; as,

math-ematics ex-change paragraph-ing abolish-ing
bow-ing toil-ing nation-al gra-cious

Can a word of one syllable be divided?

Do not divide a syllable of one letter from the rest of the word. The division ever-y is wrong.

Exercise 15

Divide the following words into syllables, using the suggestions given in the preceding exercise:

accountant dissatisfaction manufacturer reference
advertisement economy material repeatedly
anecdote employment mechanical salesman
annually energetic neighborhood security
application environment occupation separate
automobile especially opportunity signature
beginning establishment organized specification
collection expenditure permanent stenography
comparison factory preparation suburban
competent furniture president superintend
confirmation illustration quotation systematic
consequence impression realize telephone
correspondence improvement receptacle treasurer
counterfeit judgment recognition unanimous
customer machinist recommend unusual

Exercise 16 - Accent

What is accent?

Divide into syllables, indicate the accent, and pronounce the following:

expand volume defect interesting
mischievous usually incomparable theatre
exquisite tedious hospitable generally
column inquiry impious

In the following words the meaning changes with the accent. Use each word in a sentence to show its meaning.

ob´ject subject contrast desert
ob-ject´ insult protest extract
tor´ment essay conflict compact
tor-ment´ transfer compound survey
minute (notice the vowel change)
refuse (notice the consonant change)

Bring to class a list of words that you have heard mispronounced in your classes. Be sure that you can pronounce them correctly.

Exercise 17

The following words are frequently mispronounced. Divide them into syllables, mark the accent, and pronounce carefully.

municipal exquisite champion accurately
interesting gondola inquiry Genoa
influence finance inexplicable alias
illustrate deficit despicable expert
inventory pretense mischievous impious
alternate dirigible perfume detail