The Sounds of English (The International Phonetic Alphabet)

English has a lot of sounds, and they can all be represented using the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). Here’s a table of some common English sounds with examples of words for each sound. However, English pronunciation can vary by region, so these examples may not be perfect for every English accent. The table is divided into consonant sounds and vowel sounds. For each sound, there are a few examples:

SoundIPA SymbolExample Words
Consonant Sounds
/p/[p]pen, apple, stop
/b/[b]book, baby, job
/t/[t]time, cat, butter
/d/[d]dog, red, ladder
/k/[k]cat, cook, like
/g/[g]go, egg, bag
/f/[f]fun, coffee, leaf
/v/[v]very, have, movie
/s/[s]see, miss, house
/z/[z]zoo, boys, jazz
/ʃ/[ʃ]she, fish, mission
/ʒ/[ʒ]vision, pleasure, measure
/θ/[θ]think, math, bath
/ð/[ð]this, brother, weather
/h/[h]house, happy, who
/m/[m]mom, time, ham
/n/[n]nice, sun, pen
/ŋ/[ŋ]sing, finger, long
/l/[l]love, tell, call
/r/[r]red, car, river
Vowel Sounds
/i/[i]see, tree, ski
/ɪ/[ɪ]sit, big, fish
/e/[e]bed, head, friend
/ɛ/[ɛ]red, pet, met
/æ/[æ]cat, hat, apple
/ɑ/[ɑ]father, hot, spa
/ɔ/[ɔ]dog, log, walk
/ʊ/[ʊ]book, put, could
/u/[u]rule, food, blue
/ʌ/[ʌ]cup, love, duck
/ə/[ə]about, taken, lesson
/aɪ/[aɪ]buy, sky, ride
/aʊ/[aʊ]how, now, cow
/ɔɪ/[ɔɪ]boy, toy, enjoy

Unlike many other languages, English is not a phonetic language. It is not always possible to know how to pronounce a word just from seeing it. Many letters are pronounced completely differently depending on the word that they are used in. So how cana learner know how to correctly pronounce a word? This is why good dictionaries provide the phonetic spelling of the word using the IPA. By using this table, you will be able to learn how to pronounce a word from its phonetic spelling.