Schwa. Eh? Uh.

Long time, no blog! Sorry about that, but I’m back now with some key points about the MOST COMMON SOUND in the English language, so listen up!

I recently gave a pronunciation lesson at NELS about the schwa sound. (Look out for the video coming soon.)

There is lots of information about the schwa on-line, but I really like this site as it shows how different dictionaries interpret pronunciation of the same word.

Regarding how to pronounce the schwa, my favourite source is Rachel’s English here.

My favourite video about schwa is from the BBC. It’s educational and also funny, but you must watch until the end. This is the link.

I’ve made this table to show how schwa can represent ALL vowel letters in English: Can you think of any of your own examples? Let me know!

You can check pronunciation in this dictionary where you can select British English or American English.

a

a: a book* about England woman

sofa, apartment

e

taken, broken enemy different, accident little, candle

absent

i

pencil experiment admirable

cousin

o

seldom other onion dinosaur

police

u

supply campus focus industry

support

*the word ‘a’ before a word beginning with a consonant e.g. a book

NB: Highlighted letters show common letter patterns which use /ə/. (NB = nota bene in Latin = note well)
 
Here are some phrases which all have the schwa sound in. Can you find where the schwa sounds are?
Rock and roll               Backwards and forwards      One or two                    

I can do it                  Do you have to?            I’ve known her for a year and a half.

(Answers are at the end of this post.)

Schwa also appears in common prefixes and suffixes with /ə/.  Can you think of another example for each? Let me know!

suc-

succeed

able

available

 

 

er

computer

to

together

ate

passionate

 

 

or

doctor

ion

translation

-ment

government

 

 

ar

calendar

Schwa is not an easy sound to hear because it is always unstressed. But if you know where to find it, then it becomes much easier to recognise that ‘Whadaya doing?’ is actually ‘What are you doing?’ said with natural English pronunciation. Have fun practising the words and phrases using schwa – guaranteed to make you sound more natural!

Answers to Schwa phrases:

Rock and roll          Backwards and forwards       one or two

I can do it             Do you have to?            I’ve known her for a year and a half.

 
 
 
 

 

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Schwa. Eh? Uh.」への4件のフィードバック

  1. Hi ! I didn’t know the schwa sound until I took your pronunciation class.
    Yes, it’s not easy to understand and recognize it for Japanese.
    You taught me that ” SCHWA” is the lazy vowel sound and pronounce it as if you’re so tired then I feel like I begin to understand some.
    That’s why I can’t understand the native speakers’ English at a normal speed. I’ll direct my attention to recognize ” SCHWA” from now. I’ll look for the schwa sound in some English sentences. Thank you!

    • I’m glad I helped you become aware of the schwa sound. Please let me know your suffix and prefix word examples.

      • Hi ! The suffix word examples are CON- consider, concern, conserve …. and COM- command, complete, commercial….., etc. The prefix word examples are – OUS serious , delicious, fabulous, …. and -NESS kindness, tenderness, hardness,….. . I’ve been keeping marking the schwa sound in English sentences since I knew it. Thank you!

      • These are superb examples, Momo!
        Thanks for sharing them!

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