The Letter A in British 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

'A' is the first letter of the English alphabet. It is considered a vowel.

Vowels are sounds that are pronounced without any restriction in the vocal tract. It means we can produce it with the unrestricted flow of air.

Uppercase Form A
Lowercase a
Name ei (pronounced /ˈeɪ/)
Common Sounds /æ/, /eɪ/, /ɛ/, /ɔ:/, /eɪ/

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' sounds /æ/:

bat /bæt/

cat /kæt/

man /mæn/

Sound 2: /eɪ/

'a' also sounds /eɪ/:

snake /sneɪk/

bake /beɪk/

gate /ɡeɪt/

made /meɪd/

Sound 3: /ɑː/

'a' sounds /ɑː/:

car /kɑːr/

bath /bɑːθ/

ask /ɑːsk/

grass /ɡrɑːs/

Sound 4: /ɔ:/

'a' sounds /ɔː/:

call /kɔːl/

fall /fɔːl/

war /wɔːr/

Sound 5: /ə/

'a' sounds /ə/:

asleep /əˈsliːp/

umbrella /ʌmˈbrel.ə/

petal /ˈpet.əl/

Other Sounds

Sound 6: /ɒ/

'a' sounds /ɒ/:

swan /swɒn/

was /wɒz/

wand /wɒnd/

Sound 7: /e/

'a' also sounds /e/:

any /ˈen.i/

anything /ˈen.i.θɪŋ/

anywhere /ˈen.i.weər/

Sound 8: /eə/

'a' also sounds /eə/:

canary /kəˈneə.ri/

vary /ˈveə.ri/

parent /ˈpeə.rənt/

Sound 9: /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/

rain /reɪn/

'ai' also sounds /e/:

again /əˈɡen/

said /sed/

against /əˈɡenst/

'ai' sounds /eə/:

fairy /ˈfeə.ri/

dairy /ˈdeə.ri/

hairy /ˈheəri/

'ai' also sounds /ə/:

curtain /ˈkɜː.tən/

certain /ˈsɜː.tən/

'ai' also sounds /æ/:

plait /plæt/

plaid /plæd/

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

bargain /ˈbɑːr.ɡɪn/

mountain /ˈmaʊn.tɪn/

porcelain /ˈpɔː.səl.ɪn/

air

'air' sounds /eə(r)/:

chair /tʃeə(r)/

pair /peə(r)/

fair /feə(r)/

Tip

'ai' also sounds /aɪ/ in the loanword 'bonsai':

bonsai /ˈbɒn.saɪ/

ae

'ae' sounds /eə/:

aerial /ˈeə.ri.əl/

aeroplane /ˈeərəpleɪn/

aerosol /ˈeərəsɒl/

Tip

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

sundae /ˈsʌn.deɪ/

au

'au' sounds /ɔː/:

sauce /sɔːs/

august /ɔːˈɡʌst/

laundry /ˈlɔːndri/

'au' also sounds /ɒ/:

because /bɪˈkɒz/

sausage /ˈsɒs.ɪdʒ/

'au' also sounds /a:/:

aunt /ɑːnt/

laugh /lɑːf/

'au' also sounds /u:/:

beauty /ˈbjuː.ti/

beautiful /ˈbjuːtɪfl/

augh

'augh' sounds /ɔː/:

caught /kɔːt/

naughty /ˈnɔː.ti/

daughter /ˈdɔːtə(r)/

Tip

'au' sounds /əʊ/ in French loanwords:

mauve /məʊv/

aubergine /ˈəʊbəʒiːn/

aw

'aw' sounds /ɔː/:

paw /pɔː/

straw /strɔː/

jaw /dʒɔː/

ay

'ay' sounds /eɪ/:

tray /treɪ/

crayon /ˈkreɪ.ɒn/

play /pleɪ/

Tip

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

says /sez/

ea

'ea' sounds /e/:

head /hed/

bread /bred/

thread /θred/

'ea' also sounds /i:/:

pea /piː/

seat /siːt/

teacher /ˈtiːtʃə(r)/

'ea' sounds /eɪ/:

break /breɪk/

steak /steɪk/

breakdown /ˈbreɪkdaʊn/

'ea' also sounds /ɪə/:

idea /aɪˈdɪə/

theatre /ˈθɪə.tər/

'ea' sounds /eə/:

bearing /ˈbeə.rɪŋ/

bearable /ˈbeərəbl/

ballbearing /ˌbɔːl ˈbeərɪŋ/

Tip

'ea' sounds /ə/ in the word pageant:

pageant /ˈpædʒ.ənt/

oa

'oa' sounds /əʊ/:

goat /ɡəʊt/

boat /bəʊt/

coat /kəʊt/

'oa' also sounds /ɔː/:

abroad /əˈbrɔːd/

broadcast /ˈbrɔːd.kɑːst/

ia

'ia' sounds /ə/:

special /ˈspeʃ.əl/

Egyptian /iˈdʒɪp.ʃən/

official /əˈfɪʃ.əl/

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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