A minimal pair is a pair of words which differ only in one sound. They are a great way to help your students become more aware of their difficulties with pronunciation. For example, Spanish students often struggle with the pairs "sheet" and "seat", or "cat" and "cut". They can really improve their pronunciation by practising these pairs.

Minimal pairs lists by nationality

Click on the links here for .pdf files with useful minimal pairs for particular nationalities.

Minimal pair lists for common pronunciation difficulties

Below are examples of some common minimal pairs which can cause problems for students. For ways to use these with your students, see my minimal pairs activities page.

Vowel sounds

æʌ
cat cut
ankle uncle
ran run
drank drunk
match much
ɪi:
ship sheep
it eat
hit heat
bin bean
live leave
ɜ:ɔ:
work walk
bird bored
fur for
shirt short
sir saw
 
æ
hat hate
mad made
lack lake
back bake
cap cape
æe
bat bet
dad dead
pack peck
sad said
tan ten
ɑ:ɔ:
far four
tart taught
part port
farm form
barn born
 

Consonant sounds

tθ
tin thin
true through
tree three
taught thought
boat both
rl
fry fly
right light
grammar glamour
wrong long
wrist list
vb
vote boat
very berry
van ban
vest best
vet bet
 
ʃs
ship sip
she sea
sure sore
shoot suit
shy sigh
ʃ
shoes choose
sheep cheap
wash watch
mash match
cash catch
sz
sip zip
sue zoo
place plays
rice rise
ice eyes
 
sθ
sin thin
sum thumb
sank thank
sink think
saw thaw
ŋkŋ
think thing
sank sang
bank bang
rink ring
sunk sung
pb
pin bin
pest best
pig big
pit bit
poured bored
 
dð
doze those
day they
dare there
den then
dough though
wv
wine vine
west vest
while vile
wet vet
wary vary
pf
poor four
pair fair
pine fine
pill fill
please fleas