John’s English Blog

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


Minimal pairs /æ/ and /ɑː/


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

This exercise is about the sounds /æ/ and /ɑː/. These are the vowels in bad and bard.

how to pronounce /æ/

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

how to pronounce /ɑː/

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


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

I don’t mean to blow my own trumpet, but I am the best. (strong form of am)
That’ll cost you an arm and a leg.

Sorry, I can’t talk. I’m at work.
Life imitates art.

You’ve put your T-shirt on back to front.
His bark is worse than his bite.

How are you? Not bad, thanks.
Shakespeare is know as the Bard.

Dip the fish in the batter before you fry it.
You don’t have to give me money. We can barter.

The cant of the deck made it hard to stand.
Can’t you get ready any faster?

In Cambridge, I love punting on the river Cam.
The words, “calm down!” have never made anyone calm.

He came cap in hand to ask for help.
Don’t carp on about it.

Cat got your tongue?
Don’t put the cart before the horse.

Dan is short for Daniel.
Don’t throw those socks away. Darn the holes instead.

He’s got the gift of the gab.
The inmates wear prison garb.

I’ll just have a ham sandwich, thanks.
Missing a meal once in a while never did anyone any harm.

There’s a vacancy for a new supervisor. Are you going to throw your hat into the ring?
She loves her job. She puts her heart and soul into it.

He’s a good lad.
To make a good Yorkshire pudding you need lard.

Why don’t you leave the kids with nan today?
I’ll have a chicken tikka masala and a naan, please.

Pack light we’ve only got carry on luggage.
The only thing worse than driving in London is trying to park.

Give yourself a pat on the back.
Overtime is part and parcel of the job.

A hamburger consists of a bread roll, a meat pattie and often some salad.
Are you coming to my birthday party?

It’s not even a hut, just a shack.
Have you heard Baby Shark?

You call it a collection of porcelain figurines and I call it tat.
Would you like some apple tart with custard?

I’ll do it for a wad of cash.
Maid Marion was the ward of The Sheriff of Nottingham.

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

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