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Guide to pronunciation symbols

This list contains the main sounds of standard British English (the one that’s associated with southern England, also often called Received Pronunciation). The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) symbols appear on my Web pages; the text equivalents were for the plain-text versions of my weekly e-mail newsletters. See the bottom of the page for some important notes.


The following letters have their usual values in English:

b, d, f, h, k, l, m, n, p, r, s, t, v, w, z.

IPA Text Examples IPA Text Examples
ɡ g get, go, guard tS chip, chin, nature
dZ judge, soldier x x Scots loch
ŋ N sing, ring, finger θ T thin, thick, strength
ð D then, bathe, lather ʃ S she, sugar, machine
ʒ Z pleasure, vision j j yet, use, beauty

Short vowels

IPA Text Examples IPA Text Examples
æ a cat, bad, trap ɛ e bed, net, dress
ə @ about, comma ɪ I kit, bid, hymn
i i happy, glorious ɒ Q hot, odd, wash
ʌ V dug, run, strut ʊ U book, put, foot

Long vowels

IPA Text Examples IPA Text Examples
ɑː A: cart, arm, father i: meet, see, fleece
ɜː 3: her, nurse, learn u: boot, too, group
ɔː O: port, saw, thaw


IPA Text Examples IPA Text Examples
aI bite, my, price aU brow, how, mouth
eI fate, day, break əʊ @U goat, show, no
ɪə I@ pier, near, weary ɔɪ OI boil, choice, boy
ʊə U@ tour, cure, jury e@ hair, dare, various
aʊə aU@ sour, cower, flour aɪə aI@ fire, buyer, liar

Other symbols

IPA Text Purpose
ˈ Precedes the syllable which has the primary stress
ˌ , Precedes a syllable which has a secondary stress
( ) ( ) Surround an optional sound
ʔ ? Glottal stop

Some French vowel sounds

IPA Text Examples IPA Text Examples
ø 2 jeu ɔ O bottes, bol
œ 9 oeuf, soeur y y sucre, tu
ɑ̃ a~ banque, sans ɛ̃ e~ cinq, saint
ɔ̃ o~ bonbons, son œ̃ 9~ un, lundi, brun


With minor changes, the IPA scheme is that of the Oxford English Dictionary, Collins Dictionaries and the Longman Pronunciation Dictionary, while the text symbols are those of the European SAMPA scheme, with minor changes to aid comprehension by non-linguists.

To view IPA you must have a font on your computer that includes the IPA extensions, such as Lucida Sans Unicode, Doulos SIL or Arial Unicode MS. If the symbols are visible in the IPA column above, then you already have such a font installed. The site preference is for Lucida Sans Unicode, a font which is widely installed on Windows systems. See your system help files for how to install fonts.

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.