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Minimal Pair /æ/ and /ɑ:/

as in had and hard

Below is a list of words that vary only by one having the vowel sound /æ/ and the other the vowel sound /ɑ:/.

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

The main distinction between these two sounds is that /æ/ is shorter than /ɑ:/, but the mouth position is also different – the reason that doctors say “Say ah” is that /ɑ:/ uses a wide open mouth.

Elementary / Pre-Intermediate

back bark
fat fart
had hard
hat heart
jazz jars


bad bard
ban barn
cad card
cant can’t
ham harm
match March
pack park
pax parks


cabs carbs
cap carp
cat cart
chat chart
lack lark
mad marred
mash marsh
mat mart
pat part
tap tarp


badge barge
gab garb
hack hark
hash harsh
hath hearth
knack nark
lad lard
latch larch
lax larks
pap parp
patch parch
shack shark
tad tarred

Written for EnglishClub by Alex Case