John’s English Blog

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


Minimal pairs /ɜ:/ and /ɔ:/


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

This exercise is about the sounds /ɜ:/ and /ɔ:/. These are the vowels in work and walk.

how to pronounce /ɜ:/

Lips: rounded
Tongue part: centre
Tongue height: half open
Tongue tension: relaxed
Duration: long

how to pronounce /ɔ:/

Lips: rounded
Tongue part: back
Tongue height: half open
Tongue tension: relaxed
Duration: long


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

Bert is short for Albert.
I bought a delicious chocolate cake.

I asked him if he wanted dinner, but he just gave a curt shake of his head. “Will you go and tell your master that Arthur from the Court of Camelot is here.”

Tofu is made from bean curd.
I tell students about my mistakes, because it often strikes a chord.

The sandwich is named after its supposed inventor, John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich.
All things being equal, we should be home in time for dinner.

I like to sleep on a firm matress rather than a soft one.
Please, complete the application form.

London Fashion Week has banned animal fur.
Vivaldi’s Four Seasons is very popular.

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
I’m bored of studying. Let’s go out.

Have you heard the news?
Smaug slept on his hoard of treasure.

The hearse carried the coffin to the cemetery.
“A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse.”

Florence Nightingale was a famous nurse.
Thursday is named after the Norse God, Thor.

“To err is human; to forgive, divine.”
“To be, or not to be: that is the question:”

The Girl with the Pearl Earing is a famour Vermeer.
A pall of smoke blocked the sunlight.

When cats are happy, they purr.
He kept a rabbit’s paw for good luck.

That tie goes will with your shirt.
In summer I like to have short hair.

Be careful when you open the bottle of cola, it might spurt.
Is chess a sport?

Stir your coffee or the sugar won’t dissolve.
Store in a cool dry place.

The Earth is the third planet from the sun.
Take the chicken out of the freezer, but don’t cook it until it has thawed.

You’ve been on the computer for an hour. It’s my turn now.
I’m torn between going and staying. I just can’t decide.

Can I have a word with you?
I’m visiting a patient. Please, can you tell me where Weston ward is?

He may not tell you, but I’ll worm it out of him.
Make sure you warm the pot, before you add the tea.

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

Sign up for new articles.