Pronunciation of /l/ and /r/

Welcome back everyone. This week we are looking at two English sounds which can be a little confusing for some students: /r/ and /l/. In this short article we will look at why these sounds can be confusing, how they are articulated in English and activities you can try to help articulate these two sounds more effectively.

Let’s Begin!

/l/ we have already covered in some detail which you can check out here. /r/ on the other hand can be a little challenging. This is because in some languages /r/ is articulated with the tongue and the area just behind your upper teeth (the alveolar ridge). Languages such as Arabic, Japanese and Bahasa Indonesian articulate /r/ to varying degrees in this way. You can hear these below:

a) Arabic ر – ‘rahman’ (mercy)

b) Japanese – ‘ramen’ (ramen noodles)

c) Bahasa r – ‘ruman’ (room)

As you can hear, it almost sounds like a sound between a /l/ and /r/ sound.

If a ‘native’ English speaker were to pronounce these words, it might sound as follows (both pronunciations are given to make it easier to hear the difference):

a) Arabic ر – ‘rahman’ (mercy)

b) Japanese – ‘ramen’ (ramen noodles)

c) Bahasa r – ‘ruman’ (room)

As you can hear, English /r/ sounds very different to the /r/ may sound in the languages above.

In English, /l/ is articulated similar to how /r/ is articulated in the languages above. So already you can see how the two sounds can get confusing! Let’s illustrate both the /l/ sound and /r/ sound in English below to help us articulate them ore effectively.

If we move from the picture on the left to the picture on the right, we can see that /r/ is articulated with the front of the upper teeth coming close to the bottom lip. The bottom lip then moves away as the sound is released, producing the desired /r/ sound.

/l/ on the other hand is articulated with the tip of the tongue touching the area behind the upper teeth. The tip of the tongue then moves away as the sound is released, producing the desired /l/ sound.

The best way to remember this is that /l/ uses your tongue and /r/ uses your teeth.

Listen to the words below, can you hear the difference between English /l/ and /r/? Try practising the words yourself after you listen.

a) rip lip

b) lime rhyme

c) loom room

d) rock lock

e) glass grass

f) gram glam

g) clam cram

h) blame brain

j) brew blue

k) glory

l) merrily

m) Lorraine (female name)

n) Leeroy (male name)

‘Native’ English speakers can have problems with the /r/ sound too! And some speakers pronounce /r/ as /w/. So, for example, they pronounce words like ‘rabbit’ as ‘wabbit’. Children also have difficulty with the English /r/ and pronounce it with a /w/ sounds sometimes. In other words, English /r/ is not a very easy sound and can take time to develop!

How Can We Help Students with English /l/ and /r/?

First, you can display the pictures above in your classroom. This will give your students a useful reference point when trying to pronounce English /l/ and /r/.

The important thing is that your students can listen to the sounds in different words so their awareness of the English sounds improves. After they listen they should try to say the sounds in different words. To help you with this, some activities have been designed below to help your students with this. You can download the entire set (including a Key for Teachers) for free by pressing the link below.

DOWNLOAD HERE /l/ and /r/ Listening Worksheets and Key

Activity 1: Lion and Rabbit

l and r listening activities -1

Activity 1 is a minimal pairs activity. Minimal pairs are words which are the same, but one sound is different. For example, ‘lock’ and ‘rock’. Students listen and tick the sound (/l/ or /r/) in the words they hear. You can listen to the audio for the worksheet below.

Activity 2: Which One?

l and r listening activities -2

Activity 2 is similar to Activity 1 but here they tick the word they hear. Again, it is a minimal pairs activity. You can listen to the audio for the worksheet below.

Activity 3: Can You Spot the Difference?

l and r listening activities -3

Activity 3 is a little more difficult. Here students have to identify which pronunciation is the correct pronunciation. They choose pronunciation A or pronunciation B. You can listen to the audio for the worksheet below..

Activity 4: Simple Silly Sentences

l and r listening activities -4.jpg

Activity 4 uses silly sentences to help students develop fluency with the /l/ and /r/ sound. It encourages students to switch between the sounds more quickly. To do this start slowly with the students and then they can gradually say it faster. If you do not feel confident modelling it for your students, you can listen to the audio for each silly sentences below. You can also print it out and stick it on your wall or board. Remember to get students to LISTEN to the silly sentences first before letting them read them.

Red Cherries and Yellow Lemons

A Lot of Chocolate

A Little Rabbit

Why is this important?

English /l/ and /r/ can cause a few problems for students whose language usually has /r/ articulated with their tongue. This is because there are many words in English where the difference in meaning is identified by the /l/ or /r/ sound. You can see this with Activity 1 and 2 above. This may also cause some communication problems too, as the intended words can be misunderstood easily. So, if your students struggle with English /l/ and /r/, give the above activities a try and please leave feedback if you found it useful!

As usually, LIKE, FOLLOW, COMMENT AND SHARE if you found this article helpful!

Catch you again soon!

Pronunciation of ‘-ed’ Endings in English

Hi teachers. It’s been a long time since the last post. Thank you for returning!

In today’s post we will focus on a nice pronunciation rule for ‘ed’ endings in English. In English many words can end with ‘ed’. For example:

  1. kicked (to kick)
  2. punched (to punch)
  3. hugged (to hug)
  4. loved (to love)
  5. wanted (to want)
  6. needed (to need)
  7. played (to play)
  8. called (to call)

Most of these words in English ending with ‘ed’ are Regular Verbs. Regular Verbs are verbs you simply ‘ed’ to when changing them into the Past Simple (Verb 2) form. You can listen to them below.

However, there are some useful ‘ed’ words which look like verbs but act like adjectives. You can test this by adding these ‘ed’ adjectives to ‘I am…’ or ‘I feel…’. Some examples of ‘ed’ adjectives are below:

  1. amazed by (to be amazed by something)
  2. excited about (to be excited about something)
  3. interested in (to be interested in something)
  4. bored of (to be bored of something)

You can listen to these below:

When you listen to the pronunciation of the examples above you can hear three different pronunciations of the ‘ed’ ending. These are /t/, /d/ and /ɪd/. With /ɪd/ you can hear that it adds an extra syllable to the original word. For example:

  1. want – wanted
  2. wait – waited
  3. need – needed
  4. fade – faded

Why Different Pronunciations?

So why do some ‘-ed’ endings have a /t/, /d/ or /ɪd/ sound? The answer to this question is in the last letter/s of the word. If you have read some of our previous posts you might have come across the words ‘voiced’ and ‘voiceless’ sounds in English. To keep things simple, ‘voiceless’ sounds make the ‘-ed’ /t/ and ‘voiced’ sounds make the ‘-ed’ /d/. As for /ɪd/ this is easy. /ɪd/ occurs when the last letter/s of the word is ‘-t’, ‘-te’ or ‘-d’, ‘-de’.

The difficulty is knowing which letters in English are ‘voiceless’ and which letters in English are ‘voiced’. Don’t worry, we have made it easy and have produced a nice poster you can use in your class. This can help remind yourself and your students about the ‘ed’ pronunciation rule.

ed endings poster-1

DOWNLOAD HERE: ‘ed’ Ending Pronunciation Wall Poster

Classroom Activities with ‘ed’ Endings.

You can play a nice game with your students by drawing three pipes labelled /t/, /d/ or /ɪd/ on the board:

ed endings activity new.png

Then you can write or use word cards above the drawing and get students to decide which pipe that word should go down. If you are using word cards students can come to the board and physically move the card down one of the three pipes.

You can make it more competitive by dividing your class into teams and different students from each team can come to the board and choose which pipe the word should go down.

You can also give points to the teams which choose the correct pipe and give extra points to the team with the best pronunciation too!

Listening Activities with ‘ed’ Endings

A more effective way to help your students develop phonemic awareness (this is your students’ familiarity with the pronunciation patterns in English through listening) might be to do the above activity as a listening activity. So instead of writing or using word cards, you can say the word and students decide which ‘ed’ pronunciation it has.

For example, you say ‘cooked’ and students come to the board (or choose a), b) or c)) and choose the correct pronunciation. They can even repeat the word back to the class.

To make it more challenging you can say the word in root form (this works best with Regular Verbs) and students decide which ‘ed’ pronunciation it would have in its Verb 2 form.

For example, you say ‘cook’ and students decide if it is cooked /t/, cooked /d/ or cooked /ɪd/.

Why Is This Important?

A strong sign of ‘non-native’ like English is with the pronunciation of the ‘ed’ endings. For example, you might hear students pronounce the words below as follows:

  1. wash – washed
  2. watch – watched
  3. stop – stopped
  4. missed – missed

Can you correct the pronunciation? You can listen below to check:

Interestingly, ‘native English’ speaking children tend to overuse the /ɪd/ pronunciation, but this is usually with Irregular Verbs in Verb 2 form for example:

  1. buy – buyed, boughted
  2. go – goed, wented
  3. hurt – hurted
  4. eat – eated, ated

Don’t worry about this. Children usually over-generalise language patterns as their language develops over time. Here they are over-generalising the ‘ed’ rule and using it with Irregular Verbs. You might even hear your students doing the same!

The key here, is patience. Use a lot of listening activities to keep your students aware of the ‘ed’ pronunciation rule and they will pick it up over time as their language improves and develops.

Getting your students aware of the different ‘ed’ pronunciations will also help them understand the time references better when listening. For example:

  1. Who picked these oranges?
  2. I played badminton.
  3. They started the game at 6am.

Here, if students become used to hearing the different ‘ed’ endings they know it is referring to the past. Sometimes in English, speakers leave out adverbs such as yesterday, last week, earlier this morning, 2 minutes ago, because the past can be marked with the ‘ed’ ending on Regular Verbs.

If you ae worried your own pronunciation as a teacher, please use the wall poster as a reminder and practise the pronunciation of any target words you will use in your lesson.

Remember that with the /t/ and /d/ pronunciation of the ‘-ed’ ending DO NOT add an extra syllable. For example, listen to the words below. Notice that the number of syllables is the same:

  1. cook – cooked (might look like ‘cookt’)


  1. beg – begged (might look like ‘begd’)


However, with /ɪd/ pronunciation of the ‘-ed’ ending you add an extra syllable. Listen to the words below:

  1. start – start-ed     /stɑ:t/ – /stɑ:t.ɪd/
  1. cor-rect – cor-rect-ed     /kə.rekt/ – /kə.rekt.ɪd/
  1. nod – nod-ded     /nɒd/ – /nɒd.ɪd/
  1. re-ward – re-ward-ed     /rɪ.wɔ:d/ – /rɪ.wɔ:d.ɪd/

So keep your students busy with developing their awareness of the different ‘-ed’ ending pronunciations in English and hope you will notice improvements in process!

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Thank you for reading and catch you again soon with our next post!

To /s/ /z/ or /ɪz/: Plural ‘-s’ Endings in English

Hi Teachers and Visitors to this website. This is a re-post from an earlier entry. We felt it got lost there so here it is again. Enjoy!

Plural ‘s’ in English.

In English plural countable nouns are nouns we add an ‘s’ to express that there is more than one. For example a cup (one cup), two cups, a bag (one bag), three bags, an apple (one apple), four apples, an orange (one orange), five oranges.

English generally has three ‘s’ sounds when it comes to plural countable nouns. These are /s/ /z/ and /ɪz/.

When describing English sounds, we usually say /s/ is voiceless (a slight whistling air comes out your mouth as you make the sound) and /z/ is voiced (you feel a stronger vibrating sound in your throat). This is illustrated below:

/ɪz/ is also voiced because it has /z/ in it.

The general rule for knowing when plural ‘s’ (the last letter ‘s’ you see in plural countable nouns like cups, herbs, oranges) is that:

  • If the final letter of the word is a voiceless sound the plural ‘s’ sound is /s/. Remember voiceless  + voiceless.
  • If the final letter of the word is a voiced sound, the plural ‘s’ is /z/. Remember voiced + voiced.

You can see this with the chart below (which you can also download for free to use with the ELE Flashcard Flipbook):

Plural S Teacher's Pronunciation Key

DOWNLOAD Plural S Teacher’s Pronunciation Key

Based on the above you can see that most words in English end with a /z/ sound. That’s because all vowels in English are voiced and most of the consonant sounds are voiced too (you can read our blog about English sounds here).

Words which end with voiceless sounds are: cup /p/, hat /t/, sock /k/, cliff /f/ and moth /θ/. As a result, any word which ends with these sounds will have /s/ in their plural form.

As for /ɪz/ this is the sound for plural countable nouns ending with the following sounds:

  • /s/ which you can hear in the letters ‘c’, ‘x’. For example ‘fence, fences‘ and ‘box boxes‘.
  • /z/ which you can hear in the letters ‘s’ and ‘z’. For example ‘cheese cheeses‘ and ‘maze mazes
  • /ʃ/ which you can hear in the letters ‘sh’. For exampled ‘dish dishes‘.
  • /ʧ/ which you can hear in the letters ‘ch’ and ‘tch’. For example ‘watch watches‘.
  • /ʤ/ which you can hear in letters ‘j’ and ‘g’. For example ‘jumper’ and ‘orange oranges‘. (We will write a seperate blog on this sound because in English it can be difficult o know when ‘g’ is /g/ or /ʤ/).

Any word which ends with those sounds will usually have /ɪz/ in their plural form.

REMEMBER This rule is for COUNTABLE NOUNS. This rule also applies to VERBS. For example:

  • I cook      He cooks /s/
  • I dig         She digs /z/
  • I wash     He washes /ɪz/

Why is this important?

For many speakers this is not a big problem and generally does not effect communication. However, this is an interesting feature of English pronunciation and practising this will help speakers who struggle with ending sounds in English.

This is especially noticeable with Vietnamse and Thai speakers who tend to leave many English words open (without an ending sound). By using this interesting pronunciation feature of English teachers can help their pupils and students become more accurate with their pronunciation of plural countable nouns and also encourage their pupils and students to pronounce English words in full with the ending sounds.

Give it a try and see if your pupils and students pronunciation improves over time.

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Thank you again and see you soon with our next post!

A Cool Look to Look Cool: Light L and Dark L


A Cool Look to Look Cool: Light L and Dark L

In today’s short article we look at the /l/ sound in English. /l/ is represented by the letter ‘l’ and is in words such as ‘look’, ‘lion’ and ‘melon’. In these words, we can see that ‘l’ is in initial position (at the beginning of a word) and mid – position (in the middle of a word). When the ‘l’ sound is in initial and mid – position, we call it a Light L (sometimes Clear L is used).

We can also find the /l/ sound in final position (at the end of a word). For example, in words such as ‘cool’, ‘beautiful’ and ‘rule’. This is called a Dark L. It is slightly different to the Light L and can be more difficult to pronounce. You can listen to the two different /l/ sounds below a) is an example of Light L and b) is an example of Dark L:

  1. a) look        b) cool
  2. a) lion         b) Nile
  3. a) late         b) tail/tale
  4. a) laugh      b) full
  5. a) less          b) sell

The Difference Between Light L and Dark L

The difference between Light L and Dark L can be illustrated below (read from left to right):


LIGHT L: Starting position               LIGHT L: Ending position

DARK L: Starting position             DARK L: Ending position

We can see the difference is with the starting position. With Light L, the starting position is with the tip of your tongue, touching just above, behind your upper teeth. With Dark L, the starting position is with the back of your tongue raised slightly.

As for the ending position, Light L we can see the tongue is relaxed (in its normal position). This is because to make the Light L sound you must release the tongue.

With Dark L we can see that the ending position is with the tip of the tongue touching just above, behind your upper teeth. If you release your tongue here it will become a Light L sound, so be careful!

Have a look at the illustrations below showing the word ‘look’ and ‘cool‘ (read from left to right). Can you see the difference?


   l                                 oo                                        k


c                          oo                                            l

Tips on Making the Dark L Sound

To help you make the Dark L sound more easily it might be useful to imagine you are making a vowel sound (any vowel sound will do). From that vowel sound move the tip of your tongue so it touches just above, behind your upper teeth. This is important because in English the Dark L is usually after a vowel sound. In multi-syllabic words this is usually with words ending in ‘-le’ or ‘-ul’ ‘-ull’.  These ending letters are illustrated below:


Illustration for words ending with ‘-le’ ‘-ul’ ‘-ull’

Practice Exercises for Dark L

Try to practice the Dark L sound with the words below (some are nonsense words). Remember to pronounce smoothly. Your Dark L should sound like ONE sound. Audios are provided for all the examples.

  1. fill full fall
  2. bill bull ball
  3. mill mull mall
  4. hill hull hall
  5. will wull wall

  1. shill shull shall
  2. chill chull chall
  3. brill brull brall
  4. drill drull drall

  1. battle bettle bittle bottle
  2. cattle kettle kittle kottle
  3. rattle rettle rittle rottle

  1. beautiful wonderful resourceful
  2. cheerful hopeful grateful

Try This Tongue Twister

Tongue twisters are a fun way to practice pronunciation. Many native English speakers have used tongue twisters as children to help with difficult sounds. You can give this tongue twister a try to help you practice switching between Light L and Dark L. As you feel more confident you can go faster! Have fun with it!

How Many Lemons Fell on the Floor

One little lemon fell on a melon

And broke the melon in two

Two little lemons fell on a melon

And broke the melon in three

Three little lemons fell on a melon

And broke the melon in four

If you ignore the melons

And count the lemons

How many fell to the floor?

(eleclassroom (c) 2018)

Recited at normal speed

Recited more quickly

Why Is This Important?

For some speakers, making the Dark L can be easy. For example, Arabic speakers have many words ending with a ‘lam’ sound, similar to English Dark L. However, for some speakers, especially from countries like Viet Nam, it can be a bit more challenging.

Practising the Dark L will help make your words sound more complete, however this might take time. Young native English speaking children for example, have difficulty with Dark L as their pronunciation  develops. It is quite common to hear children say words like ‘bottle’ and ‘rattle snake’ without pronouncing the Dark L. Instead they end with something closer to a vowel sound. You can hear the difference with the words below:

  1. bottle
  2. rattle
  3. cool
  4. Nile
  5. tail/tale
  6. full
  7. sell

Keep practising the Dark L and help give your English words that ‘complete’ sounding feel when speaking in English or modelling language to your students.

As usual, please leave feedback in the COMMENTS section below. It will be great to know whether this article has helped you with this difficult Dark L sound.

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Until then, catch you in the next article!