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Minimal Pairs /əʊ/ and /ɔ:/

so and saw

Below are lists of words that vary only by one having the sound /əʊ/ and the other the sound /ɔ:/. 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.

The sound of /əʊ/ (as in "O", "oh" and "owe") is a diphthong, meaning two vowel sounds blended into one. You should be able to see the mouth moving from one position to the other while making the sound, with the mouth becoming smaller and rounder. You can emphasize and control this by holding your hand in front of your mouth and bringing the fingers in towards each other as you move from the first part of the sound to the last part.

The sound of /ɔ:/ (as in "or" and "awe") is a single long sound. The mouth doesn't move while making this sound, and you can pronounce it as long as you have breath.

Elementary
bowl ball
doe* door
foe* for four
go gore*
know no nor*
moaning* morning
mow* more
O or
so saw

Pre-Intermediate
boat bought
bode* | board bored
bone | born borne*
close claws*
doze* doors
drone* drawn
flow | flaw* floor
foal* fall
folk fork
note nought
poke pork
road rode | roared*
sew so | saw sore
show sure
shown shorn*
snow snore*
stow* store
tote* taught

Intermediate
chose chores
coast coursed*
crow craw*
dome dorm
goal gall*
hole whole | hall haul*
know no | nor
low law
motor mortar*
owe or
roe* row | raw roar*
toe | tore tour
tone torn

Upper-Intermediate
code cord
cone corn
doze doors
drone drawn
foam form
go gore
hone horn
load lord
moan mourn
moaning | morning mourning
mow more
oat ought
owed awed*
poach porch
quote quart
sew so | saw soar sore
show | shore sure
snow snore

Advanced
bode | board bored
bone | born borne
bow | boar bore
choke chalk
close claws
coke cork
copes corpse
doe door
flow | flaw floor
foe | for fore four
goad gored
goal gall
ho hoe | hoar whore
hole whole | hall haul
hose whores
implode implored
joe jaw
know no | gnaw nor
load lode | lord
low | law lore
moan | morn mourn
mole maul
mow | moor more
node gnawed
O owe | oar
ode owed | awed
pose | pause paws
road rode | roared
roe row | raw roar
scone scorn
stoke stork
stow store
toad towed | toured
tote | taught taut tort

* 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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