English Pronunciation Poem
By Georgie Harding – Founder & Head Speech Pathologist
English Pronunciation Poem – on Spelling & Pronunciation
What is the best English Pronunciation Poem? I have 2 favourites and as an English language learner they can be a great tool to correct tricky English words.
This article includes a fantastic free audio lesson using my favourite English Pronunciation poem. This will help you correct lots of commonly mispronounced words in English and have some fun while you’re doing it.
Use the free audio lesson above on the English Pronunciation Poem written below to correct all the tricky words in it.
English Pronunciation Poem
I take it you already know
of tough and bough and cough and dough.
Others may stumble, but not you,
On hiccough, thorough, lough and through.
Well done! And now you wish, perhaps,
To learn of less familiar traps.
Beware of heard, a dreadful word
That looks like beard and sounds like bird.
And dead – it’s said like bed, not bead.
For goodness sake, don’t call it deed!
Watch out for meat and great and threat.
They rhyme with suite and straight and debt.
A moth is not a moth in mother,
Nor both in bother, broth in brother,
And here is not a match for there,
Nor dear and fear for pear and bear.
And then there’s dose and rose and lose
Just look them up — and goose and choose.
And cork and work and card and ward.
And font and front and word and sword.
And do and go, then thwart and cart.
Come, come I’ve hardly made a start.
A dreadful language? Man alive,
I’d mastered it when I was five!
Quoted by Vivian Cook and Melvin Bragg 2004, by Richard Krogh, in D Bolinger & D A Sears, Aspects of Language, 1981, and in Spelling Progress Bulletin March 1961, Attributed to T S Watt, 1954.
These fun English Pronunciation poems highlight just how CRAZY and unpredictable spelling and pronunciation is in English.
So, why is English Pronunciation so challenging? Many languages are ‘phonetic languages. This means that each letter makes a particular sound – this makes learning the pronunciation easy. English is definitely NOT like that! English is not a phonetic language.
There are 44 phonemes or sounds in English (listen & record all the sounds in English). There are only 26 letters in the English language. So each letter can make a number of different sounds or can be silent. This is the main reason that English pronunciation is so challenging!
Why is English like this? Basically it’s because over many, many years English has borrowed words from many different languages. As a result, we have ended up with lots of different and variable spelling patterns.
Below are two of the best English Pronunciation poems on English spelling and pronunciation. They cover many words that are commonly mispronounced by non-native speakers because of the unusual spelling patterns.
The English Pronunciation Poem above is probably my favourite. It points out the variability of English spelling and pronunciation so well.
It covers the common words that are so often traps for non-native speakers. Make sure you correct all of them, the only words we don’t use very often are ‘lough’, ‘broth’ and ‘thwart’ – but all the others are common words that you need to be pronouncing well.
The words covered in this English Pronunciation Poem that non-native speakers mispronounce the most often are:
- suite – pronounced exactly the same way as ‘sweet’
- both – this has the diphthong or double vowel /oʊ/ – check you are making it correctly!
- straight – this has the double vowel /eɪ/ – it’s not ‘stret’ – it’s /streɪt/
- front – the vowel here is /ʌ/ like in ‘up’ – not /o/
Remember to take the free audio lesson above. Listen to it a few times and then try the poem by yourself.
If there are some words that are particularly difficult for you, it can help to write the word down and write down 2 other words that rhyme with it.
For example, if you know you tend to pronounce ‘front’ with a rounded vowel more like /o/ in ‘hot’, then you would write:
- front, hunt, punt
- suite, meet, feet
This will help you remember the correct vowel sounds and also give you practise. You should then make up some sentences.
Practising the word you are working to correct in phrases and sentences is a key step that many learners don’t do! You need repetition and practise in phrases and sentences in order to re-train your brain and muscles. It needs to become automatic for you. So, repeat in some sentences.
Eg I’m at the front of the line.
The meeting is at suite number 3.
Keep up the great work! Check out our other blogs posts for more helpful article for improving your English Pronunciation and correcting commonly mispronounced words in English.
Time For Our
English Pronunciation Poem
Ok, so here are the answers:
First line: No. ‘fork’ rhymes with ‘cork’ and ‘dork’. But ‘work’ rhymes with ‘perk’ and ‘lurk’. It has the same vowel as ‘were’. SOOOO many non-native speakers mispronounce this – I often hear them pronounce ‘work’ more like ‘walk’. So you should check it.
Second line: Yes. ‘suite’ and ‘sweet’ are pronounced exactly the same way. Make sure you get a good long /i:/ vowel.
Third line: No. ‘both’ has the double vowel /oʊ/ and ‘moth’ doesn’t. ‘Moth’ has a single vowel.
Fourth line: Yes. ‘hunt’ has the vowel /ʌ/and guess what? So does ‘front’. It’s pronounced /frʌnt/. There are quite a few words in English where the letter ‘o’ makes the vowel /ʌ/. Hundreds of commonly mispronounced words like this are covered in a Speech Active English Pronunciation Course.
And, here’s another goodie : )
English Pronunciation Poem 2
When the English tongue we speak.
Why is break not rhymed with freak?
Will you tell me why it’s true
We say sew but likewise few?
And the maker of the verse,
Cannot rhyme his horse with worse?
Beard is not the same as heard
Cord is different from word
Cow is cow but low is low
Shoe is never rhymed with foe.
Think of hose, dose, and lose
And think of goose and yet with choose
Think of comb, tomb and bomb,
Doll and roll or home and some.
Since pay is rhymed with say
Why not paid with said I pray?
Think of blood, food and good.
Mould is not pronounced like could.
Wherefore done, but gone and lone –
Is there any reason known?
To sum up all, it seems to me
Sound and letters don’t agree.
Phew! How did you go?
That one is a long one! It’s great because it covers LOADS of everyday words.
Do you have a good idea of which ones you might be mispronouncing in your everyday speaking? Remember to write a list of the ones your think you are mispronouncing and practise them.
I hope you enjoyed these poems that highlight the unpredictability of English spelling and pronunciation.
Check out our other English Pronunciation Blog Posts that explore the crazy spelling and pronunciation of English:
- Learn about the 9 Ways to Pronounce the Letters ‘ough’ eg cough, through etc
- Check out these Commonly Mispronounced English Words with Silent Letters.
This variable spelling in English is why we use the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) when we talk about English Pronunciation. The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) tells us exactly how to pronounce a word correctly in English and it also tells us where the word stress should be.
More on the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) here.
- what is the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) and why you should use it to help you
- see and hear all the sounds in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA)
- see more on how Word Stress is shown in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA).
Thanks for doing our free lesson on this English Pronunciation poem. Keep up the great work on your spoken English.
English Pronunciation Poem
Georgie Harding has assisted thousands of people from all over the world with improving their clarity and spoken English skills. A Speech Pathology degree (BAppSc(SpPath) and CELTA qualifications and over 15 years of experience providing 1:1, group and online training make Georgie a leader in her field.
Georgie is the creator the world’s leading English Pronunciation online courses that are tailored to the language background of the student and presents regularly at Universities.
If you’ve ever met Georgie or completed her award winning courses you’ll know how passionate she is about helping people move forward with better spoken English and more confidence.
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