John’s English Blog

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


Minimal pairs /ʌ/ and /ɜː/


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

This exercise is about the sounds /ʌ/ and /ɜː/. These are the vowels in bud and bird.

how to pronounce /ʌ/

Lips: oval
Tongue part: centre
Tongue height: almost completely open
Tongue tension: relaxed
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.

Blood is thicker than water.
This medication may cause blurred vision.

The bud will soon be a flower.
A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

A hot-cross bun is a traditional food at Easter.
Put on some sun-block so you don’t burn.

The shop went bust, because it ran out of money.
Please, don’t burst the balloon. I don’t like loud noises.

A lion cub starts to eat mice at three months.
The car mounted the kerb and then crashed.

The UK might cull grey squirrels.
Your hair has a natural curl.

I need a knife to cut the cake.
His reply was brief and impolite. In fact, it was curt.

We’re having crisp roast duck with a confit of sour cherries.
Traditional Highland dress includes a dirk.

Do you want tea or coffee? Whatever, I’m not fussed.
What came first, the chicken or the egg?

A gull has been stealing crisps.
“Girl, you really got me goin’”

The Cutty Sark has a copper hull.
“The hoax began with a newspaper ad inviting people to hurl haggis at Edinburgh’s Gathering of the Clans.”

You can rent a beach hut in Brighton.
I fell off my bike. Are you hurt?

The hockey player hit the puck across the ice into the goal.
Have some coffee, then you’ll perk up.

Shut up!
I like your shirt. Is it new?

This dart will stun the lion so we can examine it.
You look so stern. You should smile more.

Such is life.
How is your job search going?

He fell to the floor with a thud.
Third place gets the bronze medal.

A tonne is 1,000 kilograms.
Remember to turn off the oven.

Sometimes tough love is necessary.
I’m going to lay new turf so that next year I’ll have a nice lawn.

I want to tone my bum and tum.
Autumn term starts on 3 September.

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

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