The ɜ: Sound (/ɜ:/ Phoneme)

This is the ɜ: sound. As in the words:

  • her /hɜː/
  • work /wɜːk/
  • learn /lɜːn/

It is a Vowel sound and it’s technical name is the ‘Open-Mid Central Unrounded Vowel’. Remember that the key to pronunciation s physical and the name tells us about how the sound is made physically.

How to pronounce the ɜ: Sound

In this case your tongue is low and in the center of your mouth. Unrounded refers to your lips because they are stretched out as if you are smiling and not rounded.

All vowels are made through the mouth and are voiced so you vibrate your vocal chords to make the sound.

It is similar to the ə sound, but the two little dots mean that it is a longer sounds.
/ɜ:/ not /ə/.

To produce the sound put your tongue low and in the center of your mouth and stretch out your lips, then make a long voiced sound with your mouth relaxed.

Spelling of the ɜ: sound

The ɜ: sound sound is normally spelled with the letters ‘e-r’ as in the words:

  • person /ˈpɜːsən/

but it can also be spelled with the letters ‘o-r’ as in the word:

  • word /wɜːd/

or the letters ‘u-r’ as in the word:

  • turn /tɜːn/

or ‘i-r’ as in:

  • first /fɜːst/

Like with all vowels in English, the spelling of the ɜ: sound can be very inconsistent, as you can see, and you will always find alternative and unusual spellings of the vowels sounds. It is one of the most difficult things in English but you just have to learn it.

Examples of the ɜ: sound

Not many words end with this sound, but one important one for you to know is.

  • early /ˈɜːli/

Here are some words that have the ɜ: sound in the middle:

  • service /ˈsɜːvɪs/
  • world /wɜːld/
  • girl /gɜːl/
  • research /rɪˈsɜːtʆ/

In British English, not many words end with this sound either. But here is one you should know.

  • occur /əˈkɜː/

So that is it for the ɜ: sound but we have made additional videos on each of the groups of sounds Vowels, Diphthongs, Single Consonants, or Consonant Pairs as well as a video explaining the the phonetic chart.

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