Minimal Pair /h/ and no /h/*

as in hate and eight

Below is a list of words that vary only by one starting with the sound /h/ and the other starting without the sound /h/, in other words starting with a vowel.

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

Although there are many native speaker accents in which /h/ is not pronounced, people can still have problems understanding non-native speakers who miss off /h/, especially if they are also making grammar mistakes or other pronunciation changes. Native speakers who don’t always pronounce /h/ will also often make an effort to do so in more formal situations or to improve understanding, so language learners should at least be able to clearly pronounce the pairs below when making a special effort to do so.

Elementary

ham am
hand and
has as
hat at
he E
he’s Es
hem* M
hi I
his is

Pre-Intermediate

hair air
hate eight
hear ear
heart art
heat eat
high eye
hit it
hive I’ve
hold old

Intermediate

hall all
harm arm
hearing earring
hell L
hex X
hey A
hide I’d
how ow
whose ooze

Upper-Intermediate

hail ale
hair heir
hake ache
hash ash
he’s ease
heal eel
heave eve
hedge edge
hid id
hill ill
hod odd
hoe owe
hone own
hop op

Advanced

hacks axe
haft aft
hale ail
hark ark
haste aced
haze As
hitch itch
ho oh
hoakie oaky
hose Os
hurl Earl
whore awe

*Note that this pair may not be considered a true minimal pair by the strictest definition.

Written for EnglishClub by Alex Case