What is the most common sound in English? (A1-A2)

The answer is...

... /ә/.  We call this sound the schwa and using it correctly will help to make your pronunciation clearer and more natural. 

The schwa makes a short, soft sound and can be found in the following examples:  

a car, a dog, a man, etc.

In German, you use the schwa in the word Liebe, and in the word ce in French. 

In English we also have the sound /ei/.  This sounds like the alphabet letter A.   It's used in the following examples: 


How do I know if a word is pronounced /ә/ or /eɪ/ ?

A good dictionary will tell you the different sounds in a word.  Below are examples from the Cambridge Learner's Dictionary where you can see the sounds underlined in orange and green. 

A screenshot from the Cambridge Learner's Dictionary which shows the sounds in the words ago and late.

The Cambridge Learner's Dictionary is a great, free resource.  On the website, when you click on the speakers under a word, you can also listen to the standard British and American English pronunciations of that word.

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The schwa isn't stressed, so when a word has more than one syllable, the stress is always on a different syllable.  In the examples below, you can see that the stress is on the second syllable: 

about - /əˈbaʊt/

ago - /əˈɡəʊ/

When we speak, we say the stressed part of the word a little louder.  We call this word stress and correct word stress makes it much easier for people to understand us.

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