Minimal Pair /w/ and no /w/*

as in where and air

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

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

Some people find this difficult, especially with /wu:/ and /u:/, as /w/ is very similar to a vowel sound. With /w/ words it is best to start with your lips very tightly pursed, as if you are going to blow out the candles on a birthday cake, and then change your mouth position as you move into the vowel sound.


wait eight
we’re ear
well L
when N
where air
will ill
win in


wake ache
way A
while I’ll
whizz* is
why eye
wore or
wow ow


wedge edge
weigh A
weight ate
we’ll eel
whoops oops
wide eyed
wish ish
wit it
woe O
woe oh
woke oak


wad odd
waist aced
war oar
wart ought
was Oz
waste aced
wax axe
wear heir
weir ear
wend end
whale ale
wheel eel
wimp imp
wink ink
wise eyes
word erred


waft oft
wail ale
ward oared
weak eek
weave eave
week eek
work irk

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

Written for EnglishClub by Alex Case