John’s English Blog

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


Minimal pairs /e/ and /ɜ:/


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

This exercise is about the sounds /e/ and /ɜ:/. These are the vowels in bent and burnt.

how to pronounce /e/

Lips: wide
Tongue part: front
Tongue height: half open
Tongue tension: tense
Duration: short

how to pronounce /ɜ:/

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


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

It’s time for bed sleepyhead.
Is it a bird, is it a plane?

Big Ben is the nickname for the Great Bell at the Palace of Westminster.
Burn baby burn.

I’m wearing my best suit today.
Do you jump when you hear a balloon burst?

When I visited Rome I walked until my feet bled.
This medication may cause blurred vision.

She looked over the edge of the cliff and felt dizzy.
I felt a sudden urge to giggle.

At the end of the day I like to relax.
I earned more before, but I’m happier now.

Are you going to the beer fest at Ally Pally?
“The first rule of fight club is:…”

She has a good head for business.
Have you heard the news?

The porter held the door open as they left.
The rioters hurled bricks at the police.

The dog sleeps in a kennel outside.
Crack open the nut and eat the kernel.

Could you lend me a tenner?
I hope you learned something today.

The pigeon made a nest in the tree.
They found an injured cat and nursed it back to health.

Chickens peck at food on the ground.
Travel to other countries is a perk of the job.

I spend my Tuesday evenings skating.
Hell has no fury like a woman spurned.

I’ll be with you in ten minutes.
I can’t turn left.

The newly-wed couple went to Scotland for their honeymoon.
Can I have a quick word?

The mechanic can weld the crack.
I was in a world of my own.

If you study hard, you will do well.
Go on, give it a whirl.

The sun sets in the West.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”

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

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