Spelling the sound /ar/: ar, al or just a ?

Rule Breakers - these words break spelling rules

RULE-BREAKER 1:
Spelling the sound /ar/: When do we use al ?


There are a few words which need al to spell the sound /ar/. These are:

calm
balm
balmy
palm
calf
half
(a soothing ointment)
(mild and gentle)
(same spelling for both the tree and inside of hand)
(same spelling for both the animal and part of leg)

Learning Tip for English spelling


Make up a sentence containing as many of the al words as possible, for example:

English words with sound ar We sat under the palms on a balmy evening watching
the calm sea

Try the same thing for the words calf and half

Rule Breakers - these words break spelling rules

RULE-BREAKER 2:
Spelling the sound /ar/: When is it just a ?


Read these two words aloud: father rather

You can hear the sound /ar/ in those words but the spelling is just a.

Some words have an /ar/ sound if the speaker comes from the south of England but a short /ă/ sound if the speaker is from the north.

Some examples:

Click on each picture to hear the different sounds

In most English speaking countries you will use the short /ă/ sound as in cat with words like bath, mask and glass.

In some places, for example in southern England people will say bath as /barth/, mask as /marsk/ and glass as /glarss/. This is sometimes called 'Received Pronunciation' and may be taught if you are learning English as a foreign language.

Some more examples:.

bath
path
staff
craft
daft
raft
shaft
after
ask
bask
cask
flask
mask
task
basket
casket
can't
plant
slant

Rule-breaker
aunt
brass
class
glass
grass
pass
clasp
gasp
grasp
chance
dance
glance
prance
stance
advance
blast
fast
last
mast
past
vast
castle
pasture

Learning Tip for English spelling Try the same as before. For each group of words, make up a sentence containing as many words as possible from that group. Make the sentence as silly as you like, for example:
English words with sound ar This raft is a daft craft.

Don't have a bath on the path.

I can see in advance from your glance that I don't stand a chance of a dance.


next part of the spelling course Go to a test in these words.

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Unit 10: Spelling the sound /ar/

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