Minimal pairs are pairs of words that only have one sound different.

Two students talking together in a classroom

They can be used to contrast sounds. 

‘But' and ‘bat' are a minimal pair. Only the vowel sound is different.

In the classroom
Minimal pairs are a useful way to highlight a sound in a meaningful context and also to show the learner how important correct pronunciation of the sound is. Activities to practise minimal pairs include reverse dictation (the teacher writes what the learners say on the board), tongue twisters and drilling.

Further links:


Research and insight

Browse fascinating case studies, research papers, publications and books by researchers and ELT experts from around the world.

See our publications, research and insight