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Minimal Pairs /æ/ and /e/

bad and bed

Below are lists of words that vary only by one having the vowel sound /æ/ and the other the vowel sound /e/. 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.

If these two sounds are the same in your language, it may be difficult for you to pronounce them differently because:

  • native speakers pronounce /æ/ in several different ways
  • /æ/ is quite similar to /e/

The clearest difference is that /e/ is spoken with a wider, more stretched mouth. You can make this clear by seeing how your mouth gets wider and wider as you go from /æ/ to /e/ to /i:/.


  • axe* X
  • back beck*
  • bad bed
  • bag beg*
  • can ken*
  • ham hem*
  • jam gem*
  • man men
  • pat* pet


  • and end
  • flash flesh*
  • gnat* net
  • had head
  • pack peck*
  • pan pen
  • sad said
  • sat set
  • spanned* spend


  • band bend
  • bat bet
  • dad dead
  • gas guess
  • gassed* guest
  • land lend
  • manned* mend
  • marry merry*
  • shall shell


  • axe ex
  • fad fed
  • mat met
  • rabble* rebel
  • sacks sex
  • sax sex
  • tack tech
  • tamper* temper
  • track trek


  • bland blend
  • cattle kettle
  • dab deb
  • fanned fend*
  • flax flecks
  • frat fret
  • tamp temp
  • trad tread
  • vat vet

* 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.

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