Free Sounds Guidebook

The American R Sound as a Consonant and a Vowel


The R sound is very common in American English, and it is one of the sounds that makes American English distinct from the other English dialects.  


And if you can master a good American R sound, you will improve the naturalness and clarity of your spoken English.  


To make a good R sound, you should focus on three things: lips, tongue, and tension


The lips are rounded and the corners come in, which pushes the lips away from the teeth, like this. Watch how my lips push away from my teeth as I say these words: right, around, brother


The tongue positioning is key. The tongue is high in the mouth and pulled back - and this is the important part - the sides of the tongue should touch the inside of the upper back teeth or along the upper gum line. 


Here’s a tip to making a good R sound: Practice making your tongue wide and narrow, like this: Narrow tongue. Wide tongue. The R sound is made with a wide tongue, and this allows the sides of the tongue to push against the inside of the upper back teeth. 


The R sound is not a lazy sound - the tongue should feel tense as you pull it up and back, and slide it along the inside of the upper back teeth. Remember to make the tongue wide.


If the tongue is too low or in a narrow shape, your R may sound hollow or muffled, like this: er, mother


Let’s practice the R sound in different positions within the word. Here is the R when it comes at the beginning of a word or syllable, or when it is in a consonant cluster, like br-, tr-, kr-, and str-. 


Right.  Turn right.


Around. Look around the room.


Tree. I like to climb trees.


Street. I live on Main Street.


Now let’s practice the R sound when it comes after a vowel at the middle or end of a word, like in mother, start, and core. One important thing to remember about this type of R sound is the R will be influenced by the vowel that comes before it, so you may find that you can pronounce mother with a perfect R sound, but the word core is more challenging. 


Here is the R when it is in the central ER /ɝ, ɚ/ vowel:


First. I won first place.


Under. My cat hid under the couch.


Learn. I like to learn new things.

Here is the R when it is in the AR /ɑɹ/ vowel:


Start. Let’s start now.


Car. I bought a new car.


Park. Let’s go to the park.

Here is the R when it is in the OR /oɹ/ vowel:


Door. Close the door.


Resource. The dictionary is a good resource.


Four. She is four years old.

Here is the R when it is in the AIR /ɛɹ/ vowel:


Stairs. Climb the stairs.


Bear. I’m afraid of bears.


Where. Where are you?

Here is the R when it is in the EAR /ɪɹ/ vowel:


Here. I’m glad you’re here.


Weird. That movie was weird.


Ear. Speak into my ears.

Thanks so much for watching! And I'd love to hear from you - contact me to learn how we can work together to perfect your American English pronunciation!

Julie Cunningham | San Diego Voice and Accent Julie Cunningham | San Diego Voice and Accent Julie Cunningham | San Diego Voice and Accent

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