Minimal Pairs /əʊ/ and /ɔ:/

as in so and saw

Below is a list of words that vary only by one having the sound /əʊ/ and the other the sound /ɔ:/.

You can use this list to practise the sounds, or as a list of words to be careful in pronouncing.

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.


bowl ball

O or

so saw


boat bought

drone drawn

folk fork

know nor

mow more

note nought

poke pork

show sure


chose chores

close claws

doe door

dome dorm

doze doors

foal fall

foe four

go gore

know no nor

low law

moaning morning

owe or

shown shorn

snow snore

stow store

toe tore tour

tone torn


coast coursed

code cord

cone corn

doze doors

drone drawn

foam form

go gore

goal gall

hone horn

load lord

moan mourn

moaning morning

motor mortar

mow more

oat ought

poach porch

quote quart

sew saw

show shore sure

snow snore

tote taught


bode bored

bow boar bore

choke chalk

close claws

coke cork

copes corpse

crow craw

doe door

goad gored

goal gall

hose whores

implode implored

joe jaw

low law lore

mole maul

node gnawed

ode awed

owed awed

scone scorn

stoke stork

stow store

tote tort