Minimal pairs for Spanish speaking learners of English

Ones in blue linked to graded lists of minimal pairs. Will add more as more lists go up. Article on pronunciation for Spanish speakers also coming soon.

Vowel sounds

a and ar (batter and barter, especially understanding non-rhotic speakers)

a and u (cat and cut)

i and ee (bit and beat)

o and O (not and note)

O and or (boat and bought)

o and or (not and nought)

u and oo (pull and pool)


b and v (ban and van)

ch and dj (cheap and jeep)

ch and sh (cheese and she’s)

d and th (den and then)

dj and y (jot and yacht)

final d and t (hard and heart)

final k and g (hack and hag)

final n and ng (thin and thing)

g and w (especially with u and o sounds, e.g. go and woe)

initial es and s (especially and specially)

s and sh (seep and sheep)

s and th (sin and thin)

s and z (said and zed)

Some problems with

comprehension of some pronunciations of r and w (red and wed)

final b and p (cab and cap) – choose from full list here – and other b and p (ban and pan)

final m and n (span and spam)

final ng and nk (thing and think)

other d and t (dad and tad)

other k and g (cad and gad)

Click on the category below for loads more minimal pairs stuff.

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4 Responses to Minimal pairs for Spanish speaking learners of English

  1. Silvia says:

    I’m Spanish and I’m an advanced learner of English, so I’ve been studying and practicing it for many years now. However, I still pronounce cat and cut the same way. And also bit and beat 🙂 The vowel sounds are particularly tricky for us. I can tell the difference between this sounds when I heard a native speaker but I’m not able to distinguish them while I speak in usual conversation.

    Thanks for sharing, it’s being very useful, I’m trying hard to start saying this words right at last!

    I’m looking forward to the article on pronounciation for Spanish-speakers.

  2. Alex Case says:

    Thanks for the feedback Silvia. As I say in the upcoming article:
    – I wouldn’t worry too much about a and u because they are incredibly close and some people, e.g. New Yorkers, have no distinction between them
    – i and ee (= /i:/) is more important. It is usually more productive to focus on the mouth shape differences (e.g. mouth more spread for ee) rather than length.

  3. alexcase says:

    A few more links added.

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