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.
* 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.