Minimal pairs for Japanese learners of English

I haven’t done lists of all of these yet (there are links to the ones I have) and some might not have any actual minimal pairs in English, but I’ll update as I keep working on this over the next few months. I also realise that some of these are not things that would traditionally be in a list of minimal pairs – more on that topic in the next post.

Consonant sounds (in any position)

b and v (ban and van)

l and r (lead and read)

k and kw(qu) (kick and quick)

th and s (thin and sin)

th and z (then and Zen)

Consonant vowel combinations (in any position)

chi and ti (chip and tip) – select from general list of ch/ t minimal pairs here.

di and dji (dip and gip) and dee and djee (deep and jeep) – select from general list of d/dj minimal pairs here.

fu and hu (fun and hun) – select from general list of f/g minimal pairs here.

dji and zi (jig and zig) and djee and zee (G and Z) – select from general list of d/z minimal pairs here.

si and shi (sit and shit) and see and shee (see and she) – select from general list of s/ sh minimal pairs here.

Vowel sounds (in any position)

a and u (cat and cut)

ar and ur (far and fur)

O and or (so and sore)

e and ei (rarely, due to spelling in katakana rather than the sounds not being distinct in Japanese)

Consonants at the end of words or syllables

final b and boo

final ch and chi

final d and doe

final d and doo

final dz and z (vids and viz)

final f and foo

final g and goo (rag and ragoo)

final j and ji (cage and cagey)

final k and koo (cook and cuckoo)

final k and ki (stick and sticky)

final l and loo

final m and mu

final m and n

some problems with final n and ng

final nk and nku/ nkoo

final p and pu/ poo

final r and ru/ roo

final s and su/ soo

final sh and shi (flash and flashy)

final sh and shu/ shoo

final t and to/ toe

final t and ts

final z and zu/ zoo

Consonant clusters at the beginning of words and syllables

bl and bul

br and bur

dr and dor

fl and ful

fr and fur

gl and gul

gr and gur

kl and kul

kr and kur

sk and squ

sk and suk

sl and sul

sm and sum

sn and sun

sp and sup

st and sut

tr and tor

Vowels at the beginning of words

ee and yee

oo and you

More on minimal pairs via the link of that name below.

This entry was posted in minimal pairs, Teaching English in Japan. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Minimal pairs for Japanese learners of English

  1. Eric Roth says:

    Thank you for sharing this practical, detailed list of specific minimal pairs. While context always matters, I’ve found it essential to provide individualized (and often linked to first language) tips for advanced English language learners in speaking courses. I could have used this list for two struggling Japanese students this year.

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