The letter A, as we saw here, has a lot of different pronunciations. This time we`ll look at the long /ɑ:/ as in bar, car, and jar.
How to make the sound
When you go to the dentist, you open your mouth and say ahhhh. Do the same but not so wide, your tongue is down and your lower jaw relaxed.Say ahhhhh.
How to spell it
long /ɑ:/ is often found as AR – as in car, bar, and jar.
- Star, park, garden, dark, smart.
But sometimes we find words without R that have the same sound.
- Can’t, half, calf, tomato, laugh, advance, dance, bath, banana (the second a)
However this very much depends on your accent – in some British accents these are a long /ɑ:/ and in other accents A is short /æ/ as in cat. Listen to the difference.
There is much, much more about this division between short and long A sounds in this comprehensive blog from the British Library.
- Father – not spelt with AR but always a long /ɑ:/ sound, even with American accents. more about that and the other non AR words in this blog.
Exceptions – AR is not always /ɑ:/
Some words have AR but it doesn’t sound like the /ɑ:/ in car or bar;
- parent, care, share, area, ear, year, bear.
Look carefully at the first four words, what do you notice? AR is followed by E which is always a game changer. E changes the long /ɑ:/ into a short sound. That’s why card and care don’t have the same letter A sound, nor do share and shard.
Look at ear, year and bear. Here there is an E before AR and as we saw here, that is a whole different rule.
War? What is it good for? Nothing, and it’s a really exceptional word, I think it’s about the only AR word that has this pronunciation, which is usually spelt OR – it rhymes with door, floor, store, your, and for.
- Ward has the long /ɑ:/ but if you add it to another word it changes; backward and forward don’t have the same sound.
Listen to all the exceptional words
Listen to the words, in this recording can you hear the long /ɑ:/ sound or not?
Two things I found while I was writing this
In the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) this long A sound is written with an script A like this /ɑ/ if we use the closed /a/ like this it is slightly different sound more like /æ/. In this blog I’ve referred to it as a long sound, but linguistics more often call it a broad A.
If you search ‘long A sound words’ on the internet you’ll find most references to the AI sound as in train, rain, or brain. In school children are most often taught AR= /ɑ:/ and single letter A=/æ/, is this the beginning of the end of the long A in bath, half, laugh and dance?