The sound /ɑ/ low, central, tense vowel


Note: In many American dialects, /ɑ/ and /ɔ/ are treated as the same sound.




  • “o” – stop, pot
  • “a” – father, garage
Grammar Tip:

The sound /ɑ/ is present in the suffix –ology. This suffix indicates a field of study.
  • Biology – the study of life
  • Hydrology – the study of water
  • Sociology – the study of human society
  • Dermatology - the study of the skin and its diseases
The sound /ɑ/ is also present in the suffix -ography. This suffix indicates a field of study or something related to writing.
  • Ethnography - the study of cultures
  • Oceanography - the study of the ocean
  • Orthography - rules of correct writing
  • Biography - the written account of a person's life





Compare /ɑ/ with /ow/:

The sound /ɑ/ is a low, central, lax vowel, but /ow/ is a mid, back, tense vowel. When you pronounce /ɑ/, your lips should not be rounded.

You can hear the difference between /ɑ/ and /ow/ in these words.
1. A. knot, B. note
2. A. sock, B. soak
3. A. tossed, B. toast
4. A. rob, B. robe
5. A. honor, B. owner
6. A. model, B. model

Now compare /ɑ/ and /æ/:

These are both low vowels. However, /æ/ is a front, tense vowel and /ɑ/ is a central, lax vowel. Your lips should be wider for /æ/ than for /a/.

You can hear the difference between /ɑ/ and /æ/ in these words.
1. A. block, B. black
2. A. pod, B. pad
3. A. hot, B. hat
4. A. bond, B. band
5. A. adopt, B. adapt
6. A. bottle, B. battle
Listen and repeat these words:
1. stop
2. got
3. spa
4. job
5. father
6. lock
7. far
8. harm
9. doctor
10. proper
11. common
12. contact
13. garden
14. article
15. obvious
16. possible
17. college
18. follow
19. opportunity
20. positive

Now practice /ɑ/ in sentences. Say the words first, then the sentence.
1. party - starts - clock
The party starts at eight o'clock.
2. shopping - stop – latte
Before we go shopping, let's stop for a latte.
3. large - pots - garden
I bought some large pots for my balcony garden.
4. forgot - lock - car
I think I forgot to lock my car.
5. common - problem - college
Stress is a common problem among college students.
6. not - possible - opportunity
It's not possible to say yes to every opportunity.

To practice with different varieties of English, choose another native English speaker by clicking one of the links below:

Consonants /d/ and /g/

What we understand will appear here!
The answer has not yet been rated
The answer has not yet been rated
The answer has not yet been rated
The answer has not yet been rated