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Minimal Pairs /ɪ/ and /i:/

sit and seat

Below are lists of words that vary only by one having the sound /ɪ/ and the other the sound /i:/. You can use this to practise the sounds or as a list of words to be careful to pronounce properly.

This page uses the symbols of the Phonemic Chart. You can listen to the symbols here.

As indicated by the /:/ part of its symbol, /i:/ is a longer sound than /ɪ/ and pronouncing it this way can help distinguish between the two in the pairs of words below. You will also notice, however, that /ɪ/ does not have a dot over it, making it a different mouth position from /i:/. The sound /i:/ is said with the mouth much more spread, something like a broad smile. This is why we say "cheese" rather than "chiz" (or "whizz") when we take photos.

Elementary
bin bean
bitch* beach
chip cheap
did deed*
fit* feet
grin* green
his he’s
is ease*
it eat
mitt* meet
sit seat
slip* sleep

Pre-Intermediate
bit beat*
each itch*
fill feel
hid heed*
hill he’ll
hit heat
ill eel*
kill keel*
kip* keep
lip leap*
mill* meal
pick peek*
piss* piece
pitch* peach
shill* she’ll
sick seek*
sin* seen
still steal

Intermediate
chick* cheek
chit* cheat
dill* deal
gin gene
grid greed
hip heap*
kid keyed*
knit neat
lick leak
piss* peace
risen reason
shit sheet
sill* seal
sim* seem
sin* scene
still steel
till teal*
tin teen
tizz* teas

Upper-Intermediate
‘til teal*
bid bead
bitch beech*
biz bees
cist* ceased
dip deep
fist feast
fizz fees
pill peel
pip peep
pit peat*
shin sheen*
skid skied
skim scheme
tick teak*

Advanced/Proficiency
bib Beeb
blip bleep
britches breeches
crick creek
din dean
finned fiend
flit fleet
gip jeep
grist greased
sim seam
sip seep
skit skeet
slick sleek
slit sleet
tit teat
tizz tease

* the meaning of the word is not important at this level, but it can still be used to contrast the pronunciation with the other word. For this reason, some of the words are given at two different levels, the second time being when the meaning is also useful.

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