Free Sounds Guidebook

How to Pronounce the Schwa UH /ə/ Vowel

(Video Transcript)


The schwa vowel, UH /ə/, is in the words banana, above, and control. It is always unstressed, and the mouth position is very similar to the UH /ʌ/ in butter vowel. The difference between the schwa /ə/ and the UH /ʌ/ in butter vowel is the stress - the schwa is always unstressed, so it is said quicker, with a lower pitch and volume. The UH /ʌ/ in butter vowel can be stressed or unstressed (e.g. have secondary stress), but it is almost always stressed, so it is said longer and louder, and at a higher pitch. 


How to make the schwa UH /ə/

The schwa UH /ə/ vowel is a very relaxed vowel. UH. The mouth is completely relaxed. Here’s what the schwa vowel looks like in the word computer


The jaw opens but not that much. The lips, tongue, and jaw are relaxed. The tongue is at mid-level in the mouth. The tongue tip is behind the bottom front teeth. 


Even though the schwa UH /ə/ vowel has a similar mouth position as the UH /ʌ/ in butter vowel, the schwa will be said quicker and at a lower pitch and volume because the schwa is always unstressed. However, the jaw can also be more relaxed with the schwa vowel. Let’s take a look at the schwa UH /ə/ vowel, like in the word computer, compared to the stressed UH /ʌ/ like in butter vowel.


Unstressed schwa /ə/ vs. stressed UH /ʌ/

On the left is the stressed UH /ʌ/ vowel, like in the word butter. And on the right is the unstressed schwa vowel /ə/, like in the word computer. Notice the difference in the jaw opening. The jaw is not as open for the unstressed schwa vowel in computer - this is because it is always unstressed. 


The schwa vowel, unstressed UH. UH. Computer. UH. This vowel is always unstressed. UH.


Practice words and sentences

Here are some practice words and sentences.


Support. UH. Support.

I support you one hundred percent.

Campus. UH. Campus.

The campus is closed.

Condition. UH. Condition.

The carpet is in poor condition. 

Above. UH. Above.

The ceiling is above the floor.



Celebrate. UH. Celebrate.

It’s my birthday - let’s celebrate!

Occur. UH. Occur.

This doesn’t occur often.

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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