John’s English Blog

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


Minimal pairs /ɔ:/ and /əʊ/


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

This exercise is about the sounds /ɔ:/ and /əʊ/. These are the vowels in bought and boat.

how to pronounce /ɔ:/

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

how to pronounce /əʊ/

/əʊ/ is a diphthong, which means that the tongue starts in one position and moves to a different position. Listen to how the vowel changes as I say it.

The start position is Lips: rounded
Tongue part: centre
Tongue height: half open
Tongue tension: relaxed
Duration: long

The finish position is Lips: rounded
Tongue part: back
Tongue height: fairly high
Tongue tension: tense
Duration: long

The tongue starts in the centre of the mouth and moves up and back.
You can practice the end position with this exercise Minimal pairs /ʊ/ and /uː/


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

Cinderella went to the ball.
He eats a bowl of cornflakes for breakfast every morning.

I bought a new bicycle.
The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea, In a beautiful pea-green boat

Have there been any calls?
Selling cheese to France is like taking coals to Newcastle.

What’s the film called?
I feel cold. Turn up the heating!

I’m surprised they get along, like chalk and cheese.
You should cut grapes for children so they don’t choke on them.

Almost every song in the pop charts is built around the same four chords.
In the UK post codes are made of letters and numbers.

Corn on the cob is popular at barbecues.
Do you want your ice cream in a cone?

He has to go to court, because he’s a witness.
It’s cold out. Take your coat.

There’s someone at the door.
To make pizza dough you need strong white bread flour.

Whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks.
The foam on top of a beer is called the head.

The four ingredients of Victoria sponge are flour, butter, sugar and eggs.
Who goes there? Friend or foe?

The fête will be held in the village hall.
“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.”

“Miss Morton is Lord Morton’s daughter.” Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen.
That’s a load off my mind.

“To be or not to be, that is the question.” Hamlet, William Shakespeare.
Oh, I don’t think so”

The lion roared loudly.
The cowboy rode a horse.

A pashmina is a shawl made from high-quality goat’s wool.
The fisherman saw a large shoal of fish.

The smugglers landed their boat on the shore.
Show me the money!”

The market stall sells fruit and vegetables.
The burglar stole some money and jewellery.

He tore the letter into pieces.
Ouch! I stubbed my toe.

He was torn between his love of chocolate and his desire to lose weight.
A teacher needs a firm tone of voice.

Easy? It will be a walk in the park.
I woke up at 6 o’clock, but then I went back to sleep.

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

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