Unit 11: Spelling the sound /er/: ur, ir, ear, or er ?

Some of the longer words with these spelling patterns are listed under the clue words. Print out this page and use 'look, say, cover, write , check to learn these words.

Help spelling English words with er sound Help spelling English words with er sound Help spelling English words with er sound Help spelling English words with er sound
burger shirt earth person
burden
incur
occur
recur
urban
turban
hurdle
gurgle
turtle
disturb
perturb
surplus
survive
affirm
confirm
infirm
circular
circulation
circuit
circumference
circumstance
yearn
dearth
hearse
earnest
research
rehearse
alert
expert
external
conserve
conversation
dessert
divert
deter
deserve
fertile
permanent
reserve
refer
universe
university
terminal
terminate
All the words in the 4th column above have a very clear /er/ sound.

Many other words end in er but this is a different sound. Say these words aloud and listen to the final sound:

dinner hammer driver sweeter

In these words, er makes a very soft sound. This is because it comes in the weaker, or 'unstressed' syllable.

Some unstressed syllables have a very weak, unclear vowel sound, rather like the short sound /ŭ/.

This weak vowel sound has its own name: the schwa sound (Say 'shwar', to rhyme with 'car').

The word 'schwa' comes from a Hebrew word meaning 'emptiness' - because you can hardly hear a sound.

Unit 24 gives more detail on the schwa sound.

Take a test in these /er/ words.

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Unit 11: Spelling the sound /er/

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Teacher, High School, UK

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