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Minimal Pairs for French Speakers


Not all French students will have exactly the same problems, but here are some of the more common ones that I've encountered with my students.

For some ideas of how to use these with students, have a look at my minimal pairs activities page.


ɪi:
shipsheep
iteat
hitheat
binbean
liveleave

-h
eatheat
eighthate
artheart
eyehigh
oldhold

zð
zenthen
whizzwith
breezebreathe
baysbathe
closeclothe

-k-g
pickpig
duckdug
backbag
locklog
dockdog

e
painpen
saintsent
tailtell
wastewest
chasedchest

sθ
sinthin
sumthumb
sankthank
sinkthink
sawthaw

ɔ:əʊ
walkwoke
toretoe
lawlow
moremow
porkpoke

-t-d
hearthard
plateplayed
betbed
boughtbored
hurtheard

æʌ
catcut
ankleuncle
ranrun
drankdrunk
matchmuch

tθ
tinthin
tankthank
truethrew
treethree
taughtthought

ʃ
shoeschoose
sheepcheap
washwatch
mashmatch
cashcatch

When a word ends in /d/, the previous vowel sound is longer than when it ends in /t/. Students might find this easier than voicing the final /d/. The same happens with /g/ and /k/.

 

There are other difficulties for French speakers such as /ʒ/ and /dʒ/ (which might cause problems with words like 'joke'), or /u:/ and /ʊ/ ('fool' and 'full') but few minimal pairs exist for these. If you want to know more about difficulties which different nationalities have with English, I thoroughly recommend the book "Learner English".

 

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