Pronunciation Tip: Beer Beard Bear

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John ColtInglese
24 maggio 2017
2 minuti
Are you confused about the difference in pronunciation between beer, beard and bear? If so, you are not alone. In this post you will learn the difference…. and learn something much more important too!

bɪə bɪəd bɛː

This is actually a really simple question to answer. Beer and beard are pronounced basically the same: beard is like beer with a ‘d’ on the end. Bear is different: it’s pronounced like ‘bare’.

The essential difference is that bear uses the monophthong ɛː while beer and beard use the diphthong ɪə. A monophthong is a single vowel sound and a diphthong is a double vowel sound (i.e. two vowel sounds stuck together in one syllable). So, bear rhymes with ‘heir’ ‘hair’ ‘prayer’ and 'scare’ (ɛː, hɛː, prɛː, skɛː), while beer rhymes with ‘ear’, 'here' and ‘pier’ (ɪə, hɪə, pɪə).

  • beer = bɪə
  • beard = bɪəd
  • bear = bɛː

The essential difference is that 'bear' uses the monophthong ɛː while 'beer' and 'beard' use the diphthong ɪə.

Spelling Doesn't Matter

Ok, I hope that clears it up. Now we can move on to the really important issue. I want you to ask yourself why you are confused about the pronunciation of these words. Why? None of these three words is particularly difficult to pronounce; they’re all one-syllable words and there are no tricky double consonants. So why the confusion?

I’ll tell you why. It’s because you are focussing on how the words are spelt. You notice that natives seem to pronounce bear and beard differently, even though they are spelt similarly, so you think you must be hearing them wrong and you ignore what your ears are telling you. At the same time you notice that natives seem to pronounce beer and beard similarly, but you know they are spelt differently, so again you reject the information your ears are giving you, and assume there is some subtle difference that you are unable to hear.

Do you see the real problem here? The problem is that you are not trusting your ears. Big mistake. In English, spelling is not a reliable guide to pronunciation. 'Bear', 'hair', 'prayer', 'scare' and 'heir' are all pronounced similarly, despite different spellings. The same goes for 'beer', 'ear', 'here' and 'pier'. If you want to pronounce a word correctly, you have to forget about the spelling and trust your ears.

'Bear', 'hair', 'prayer', 'scare' and 'heir' are all pronounced similarly, despite different spellings. The same goes for 'beer', 'ear', 'here' and 'pier'.

That's all for now. Thanks for reading, and remember to trust your ears.

Ta ta!


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