John’s English Blog

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


Minimal pairs /æ/ and /ʌ/


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

This exercise is about the sounds /æ/ and /ʌ/. These are the vowels in cat and cut.

how to pronounce /æ/

Lips: oval
Tongue part: front
Tongue height: between open and half-open
Tongue tension: tense

how to pronounce /ʌ/

Lips: oval (slightly rounder than for /æ/)
Tongue part: centre
Tongue height: almost completely open
Tongue tension: relaxed


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

The cat sat on the mat.
I cut my finger on a knife.

The witch is wearing a pointed hat.
They were very poor so they lived in a hut.

The boy is wearing a baseball cap.
I love a nice cup of tea.

Lack of sleep is bad for your health.
I couldn’t believe my luck.

The boss gave him the sack for always being late.
When you crave a cigarette, suck a boiled sweet instead.

For the pancake batter you will need eggs, flour and milk.
Spread the butter on the bread.

I ran for the bus, but I was too late.
Run Forest run!

The bank ran out of money.
The sailor slept in his bunk.

There’s no road, but there is a track.
The workers loaded the boxes onto the truck.

Her boss added another file to the stack on her desk.
I’m going to be late; I’m stuck in traffic.

The project has hit a snag; we’re going to miss the deadline.
I love this new duvet. I’m as snug as a bug in a rug.

During the drought there was a hosepipe ban.
You can’t beat a cup of tea with an iced bun.

The Three Gorges Dam in China is the world’s largest dam.
I’m not sure if he’s brave or just dumb.

The Titanic sank after it hit an iceberg.
He’s sunk to a new low.

I drank a lot of tea yesterday. No, thanks. I’ve drunk enough.

Ouch! I’ve twisted my ankle.
’“Do I look stupid?” snarled Uncle Vernon’ J K Rowling.

A piece of old t-shirt makes a good rag.
In winter it’s comforting to lie on a rug in front of a fire.

The lorry driver slept in his cab.
The lioness had three cubs.

I’m not helping; paddle your own canoe.
The spilt milk made a puddle on the floor.

Have you seen The Lady and The Tramp?
I’ve got an ace. Can you trump that?

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

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