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Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Sheep or Ship? Heat or Hit? Beat or Bit? American English Pronunciation

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Hello there!

This is the Sounds American channel.

In this video we ll compare two vowel sounds:


and /ɪ/

as in the words


and hit

In our past videos we already learned how to make them.

Remember the videos for the /i/ sound,

as in "be"

and the /ɪ/ sound, as in "it" ?

This time we ll focus on the difference between these two sounds.

Many non-native English speakers can't always hear the difference between /i/

and /ɪ/.

What about you?

Let's check with a quick test.

You'll see a pair of words on a screen

and hear only one of them.

For example,


Can you guess what word you heard?

Let's try a few more word pairs.

Okay, what's your score?

The higher the better, but don't be discouraged if you didn't get all of the words right.

You'll improve after doing our upcoming exercises.

The words in those pairs may sound the same, but they differ by their vowel sound.

Here are the two key distinctions between the /i/

and the /ɪ/:


look at the lips

For the /i/ sound, the lips are spread very wide and tensed.

For the /ɪ/ sound, the lips are spread less and relaxed.


Look at what s going on inside the mouth:

For the /i/ sound, the mouth is open very little and the tongue is raised very high.

For the /ɪ/ sound, the mouth is open a little bit more and, thus, the tongue is raised slightly lower.

Let's pronounce these sounds one after the other:





The best way to practice making these sounds is to pronounce them in word pairs.

Let's do this exercise.

You'll see a word on the screen and hear its pronunciation.


After that you'll have a few seconds to pronounce the word.

[sound prompt to start speaking]

Repeat each word after the speaker.

The first word will have the tense /i/ vowel sound,

and the second will have the relaxed /ɪ/ vowel sound.

The only way to improve your pronunciation is to listen to and repeat as many words as possible.

Let's begin!

You're done!


To check how much youve improved, you can do the word pairs test again.

Click this link to go back and compare the results.

By the way, did you know that in American English the relaxed /ɪ/ vowel sound occurs twice as often as the tense /i/?

Thanks for watching!

Hope you find it useful!

Stay tuned on our Sounds American channel!

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