This is the British Council phonemic chart. Help your students hear the sounds of English by clicking on the symbols below. Click on the top right hand corner of each symbol to hear sample words including the sounds.

About the chart

  • Pure vowels are arranged the same way as in the IPA chart: according to mouth shape (left to right, lips wide / round - top to bottom, jaw closed / open).
  • Diphthongs are grouped in rows according to their second sound.

Try some pronunciation activities

Sounds Right iPad app
If you have an iPad, you can download and install a free copy of the British Council phonemic chart on it. Find out more on LearnEnglish.

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You can download this chart to use on your PC - you'll need Adobe Flash Player to use it.


Copyright information: © British Council. This pronunciation chart is free for you to use and share for educational purposes. The chart should in no way be used or circulated for financial gain.

 

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This is really incredible.This chart can be useful both for teachers of English and students.I really thank the TE Editor for publishing and making it accessible to learners

The problem of voiced consonants - consonants followed by a final schwa - arises not so much because the phonemic chart with it's (commonly accepted) 44 English sounds is 'wrong', but because it attempts to characterise with single sounds consonants that are produced differently when present at the start of a word (as an 'initial') versus the end of a word (as a 'final'). A good example is the final 'k' in the word bank. Really listen to, and focus on what you feel in your mouth as you produce it, and you will hear a very definite - albeit much quieter click-like sound; it is very much like 'k<schwa>' with the schwa component producedmuch more quietly. Try saying 'job' without parting your lips after producing the final 'b' sound, and what you will hear yourself actually produce is 'jo'. In short, the phonemic sound set generalises and over-simplifies. Of course, one should avoid over-complicating. But sometimes simplification produces more problems than it solves.The way round this is quite simple - to provide brief explanatory notes about why certain consonants (and conceivably some vowels and diphthongs) have varying degrees of inconsistency with respect to both their inherent sounds and the symbol used to represent them.But does even UK English utilise just 44 sounds? A source of irritation to Scottish speakers, for instance, is the failure of many speakers to produce the 'ch' sound as in 'Loch'; as a jewish person familiar with several of the Yiddish words that have now been adopted as standard English - chutzpah and Chanakuh, for instance, I myself find similar failures of enunciation equally jarring.But is even the English spoken within what is technically England limited to 44 sounds. I was born in North London where I grew up with a marked North London urban accent in which the glottle stop is commonplace. In the glottle stop, 't' sounds are dropped and replaced with a sound that both sounds different from, and is produced quite differently, from any of the 44 sounds comprising the accepted [UK] English phonemic set.With many foreign words - and with them new sounds - being incoporated into the English language, might an official considered revision (extension) of the phonemic set be timely?I understand that even two Chinese (Mandarin) words are now standard English vocabulary in English business circles. Those teaching business English might find the phonemic set as it currently stands rather limiting.

Hi,First of all I would like you to know that i really like this site and that i have been to british council in Serbia when i was doing my ESOL exam. Since i know how awsome you are I need to ask you to help me. My phonetics and phonology teacher wants me to write 20 words with each and every phoneme found in initial,medial and final position.  I have found the symbols here but i need more. It should look like I am writting a dictionary e.g. word  /transcription/.  Could you help me? Thanks in advance.

Hello, Can anyone tell when the change in usage occured?  When I was at school, some 30 years ago, we used to talk about phonetic charts, readings and dictations for what now would be called phonemic readings.  I still have the "Phonetic readings in English" by Daniel Jones, 1955. 

Diphthongs must consist of eight sounds but unfortunately I can find only seven sounds. the sound ʊə is missing.Nebez

Hi, great debate here.Yes, the sample sounds need to be greatly improved. It would also be useful to have a video of someone pronouncing the sounds. (There used to be one, but it wasn't very good. The pronunciation of the schwa, particularly, was incorrect.)Also, this chart doesn't include the sound of the intervocalic 't' that in standard US English occurs before an unstressed vowel (as in 'waiting'). I know that this is a British chart, but the vast majority of students in the world have more exposure to standard US English than standard British English. What harm could it do to mention this very common variation?However, phonemic charts in general aren't very useful, partly because most dictionaries publish different versions anyway, but mainly because the majority of the symbols are based on English sound-symbol correlations - which are, of course, different to the sound-symbol correlations in other languages. (For example, when my Spanish speakers see the symbol /d/ in a phonemic chart, they don't pronounce the sound of the English 'd', they pronounce the sound of the Spanish 'd', which is much closer to the 'th' in 'then' than the 'd' in 'den'.) In other words, the IPA is great for native English speakers trying to learn the pronunciation of foreign languages; not so great for people trying to learn the English language. But I guess we're stuck with it.BTW: Can anyone explain to me why the schwa is classified as a vowel sound? Unlike consonant sounds (which are produced through contact or friction between parts of the mouth), vowel sounds are produced through movement of parts of the mouth (jaw, lips, tongue). But the schwa is pronounced without any movement at all, so can we really consider it a vowel sound? Because it's such an important sound (the key to authentic pronunciation and successful listening comprehension), and doesn't even exist in many languages, I'd put it in a separate category of its own (together with the 'long' schwa), with a note explaining that although all languages have vowels and consonants, in English we have a third type of sound called a 'schwa'. (Speaking of which, why do you use the /3:/ symbol for the 'long' schwa? Surely it's simpler to just put a colon after the schwa symbol, as many dictionaries do.)I'd also reclassify /j/ and /w/ as vowel sounds, but that's a whole other debate!Cheers,David

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