John’s English Blog

I’m John, an English language teacher. Welcome to my blog.


Minimal pairs /iː/ and /ɪ/


A minimal pair is a pair of words which differ by only one sound such as sheep and ship.

This exercise is about the sounds /iː/ and /ɪ/. These are the vowels in sheep and ship.

how to pronounce /iː/

Lips: wide
Tongue part: front
Tongue height: raised Tongue tension: tense
Notes: the sides of your tongue should touch your upper molar teeth (these are the teeth you chew with). This sound is long.

how to pronounce /ɪ/

The same as for /iː/ but relax. This sound is short.


Listen to the video for the minimal pairs below.
Record yourself and listen to yourself.

He bit off more than he could chew.
I swam so fast today that I beat my personal best.

He’s got a chip on his shoulder.
A cheap bicycle doesn’t last long.

The waiter filled my cup with coffee.
Have you ever run through a field of wheat?

The shoes won’t fit. Your feet are too big.

After a hard day, I like to relax with a gin and tonic.
A gene is made of DNA.

Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water.
Bob isn’t here now. He’ll see you later.

I’m staying at home today, because I feel ill.
The eel is a type of fish and is used to make Jellied Eels.

Take an aspirin to ease the pain!
This is easy.

Mosquito bites itch a lot.
The teacher gave each student a book.

The old woman could knit hats, scarves and sweaters.
Keep your desk neat and tidy.

What do you think of this list of minimal pairs?
Which minimal pair is least difficult?

Alice frowned when she saw that it was liver for dinner again.
Charlie pushed the lever in to the “on” position to start the machine.

The steel mill worked night and day.
Second breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

The pirates dug a pit to hide their treasure.
Pete is short for Peter.

The football players walked out onto the pitch.
The only clean way to eat a peach is in the bath.

The director lives in a big house, because she’s rich.
The train is late. We won’t reach London until midnight.

Sales have risen faster than expected.
I don’t understand why he did it. There’s no rhyme or reason to his behaviour.

Nelson’s ship was called the Victory.
Shaun is an unusually bright and clever sheep.

Please, sit here.
Please, take a seat.

They were both to blame. It was six of one and half a dozen of the other.
Man seeks woman for date. Must be sweet.

Now try this phrase, “They’re a bargain. They’re as cheap as chips”.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post. If you have any comments, questions or corrections please write them below.

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