The Letter A in American English

In this lesson, we will learn about all the sounds of the letter A. It is the first letter of the English alphabet. Let's learn about it together.

"The Letter A" in the English Alphabet

The first letter of the English alphabet is 'A'. It is also the first vowel in the English language.

A vowel is a sound that is pronounced with the unrestricted flow of air and without any restriction in the vocal tract.

Uppercase Form A
Lowercase a
Name ei (pronounced /ˈeɪ/)
Common Sounds /æ/, /eɪ/, /ɑː/, /ɔː/, /ə/

The Letter A: Sounds

Vowels in the English language can have many many sounds. Here we will look at some of its common ones.

Common Sounds

Sound 1: /æ/

'a' mainly sounds /æ/:

bat /bæt/

cat /kæt/

cap /kæp/

man /mæn/

Sound 2: /eɪ/

'a' sounds /eɪ/:

bake /beɪk/

snake /sneɪk/

take /'teɪk/

Sound 3: /ɑː/

'a' sounds /ɑː/:

far /fɑːr/

palm /pɑːm/

calm /kɑːm/

Sound 4: /ɔː/

'a' sounds /ɔː/:

war /wɔːr/

call /kɔːl/

fall /fɔːl/

Sound 5: /ə/

'a' sounds /ə/:

asleep /əˈsliːp/

umbrella /ʌmˈbrel.ə/

petal /ˈpet̬.əl/

Other Sounds

Sound 6: /e/

'a' sounds /e/:

any /ˈen.i/

anything /ˈen.i.θɪŋ/

area /ˈer.i.ə/

Sound 7: /ɪ/

'a' sounds /ɪ/:

cabbage /ˈkæb.ɪdʒ/

baggage /ˈbæɡ.ɪdʒ/

package /ˈpæk.ɪdʒ/

The Letter A: Multigraphs

'A' can also appear in combination with other letters (mainly vowels and sometimes consonants). They can create distinct vowels:

ai

'ai' sounds /eɪ/:

snail /sneɪl/

train /treɪn/

sail /seɪl/

'ai' also sounds /e/:

again /əˈɡen/

said /'sed/

against /əˈɡenst/

'ai' also sounds /ə/:

curtain /ˈkɝː.tən/

certain /ˈsɝː.tən/

'ai' also sounds /ɪ/ in 'ain' when it comes in the final syllable of a word:

bargain /ˈbɑːr.ɡɪn/

porcelain /ˈpɔːr.səl.ɪn/

air

'air' sounds /er/:

fair /fer/

pair /per/

chair /tʃer/

Tip

'ai' sounds /aɪ/ in the word 'bonsai':

bonsai /ˌbɑːnˈsaɪ/

ae

'ae' sounds /e/:

aerial /ˈer.i.əl/

aeroplane /ˈeərəpleɪn/

Tip

'ae' sounds /eɪ/ in the word 'sundae':

sundae /ˈsʌn.deɪ/

au

'au' in the middle or at the beginning of words sounds /ɑː/:

laundry /ˈlɑːn.dri/

August /ɑːˈɡʌst/

sauce /sɑːs/

'au' sounds /æ/:

aunt /ænt/

laugh /læf/

'au' in the word 'beauty' sounds /uː/:

beauty /ˈbjuː.t̬i/

beautiful /ˈbjuːtɪfl/

augh

'augh' sounds ɑː, so 'gh' is silent:

caught /kɑːt/

naughty /ˈnɑː.t̬i/

daughter /ˈdɑː.t̬ɚ/

Tip

'au' sounds /əʊ/ in French loanwords:

mauve /moʊv/

aubergine /ˈəʊbərʒiːn/

ay

'ay' sounds /eɪ/:

tray /treɪ/

crayon /ˈkreɪ.ɑːn/

runway /ˈrʌnweɪ/

aw

'aw' sounds /ɑː/:

paw /pɑː/

straw /strɑː/

jaw /dʒɑː/

Tip

'ay' sounds /e/ in the word 'says':

says /'sez/

ea

'ea' sounds /e/:

head /hed/

bread /bred/

thread /θred/

'ea' sounds /i:/:

seat /siːt/

pea /piː/

teacher /ˈtiːtʃər/

'ea' also sounds /eɪ/:

break /breɪk/

steak /steɪk/

'ea' also sounds /iːə/:

idea /aɪˈdiː.ə/

movie theater /ˈmuː.vi ˌθiː.ə.t̬ɚ/

'ea' in 'ear' mainly sounds /ɪ/:

appear /əˈpɪr/

sear /sɪr/

shear /ʃɪr/

Tip

'ea' also sounds /ə/:

pageant /ˈpædʒ.ənt/

oa

'au' sounds /oʊ/:

goat /ɡoʊt/

boat /boʊt/

coat /koʊt/

'au' also sounds /ɒː/:

abroad /əˈbrɑːd/

broadcast /ˈbrɑːd.kæst/

ia

'ia' sounds /ə/:

special /ˈspeʃ.əl/

Egyptian /iˈdʒɪp.ʃən/

Tip!

aa does not occur in English words, but it is found in some names derived from other languages, such as Aaron and aardvark.

The Letter A: Uses

In English:
A is an indefinite article.
A can be used to show grade or quality.
A as a prefix can also mean 'not' or 'without'.
A is also used to show size, such as shoe size.

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