John’s English Blog

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


Minimal pairs /ɑː/ and /ɒ/


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

This exercise is about the sounds /ɑː/ and /ɒ/. These are the vowels in cart and cot.

how to pronounce /ɑː/

Lips: oval
Tongue part: almost fully back
Tongue height: fully open
Tongue tension: tense
Time: long

how to pronounce /ɒ/

Lips: rounded
Tongue part: fully back
Tongue height: almost fully open
Tongue tension: relaxed
Time: short


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

Don’t just barge in; there’s a queue.
Don’t bodge it; do it properly.

A baby cow is a calf.
I don’t feel well. I have a cough.

Did you post my Christmas card on time?
Cod in Brie with carrots is delicious.

Carp isn’t a popular fish in Britain.
It’s a fair cop.

Don’t put the cart before the horse.
A baby sleeps in a cot.

A bank clerk is a poor banker.
The clock struck one.

Tell me. Don’t keep me in the dark.
The ship was tied to the dock.

He threw the dart at the bullseye.
Remember to dot your i’s and cross your t’s.

The security guard locked the door.
May God bless this ship and all who sail in her.

I’ve heard it enough times. Don’t harp on about it.
Can you hop on your left leg?

You’re cruel. You’ve got no heart.
If you get caught, you’ll be in hot water.

A large slice of chocolate cake, please.
If you disagree with the fine, you have 28 days to lodge an appeal.

There’s no time to lark about. Get on with your homework.
Did you remember to lock the front door?

The student got a good mark for his work.
It’s not a real exam, it’s a mock exam.

Are you coming to my Birthday party?
I’m just potty about English.

Do you prefer Volvo or Saab?
I was so upset that I began to sob.

Never borrow money from a loan shark.
His sudden death was a shock to the family.

A good knife is sharp.
I’m just popping to the shop.

It was a stark room with only a bed.
We’ve sold a lot. We must order some more stock.

I love a custard tart.
I poured myself a tot of whisky.

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

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