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‘are’ – the hardest monosyllabic word to pronounce

What’s the problem?

‘Are’ is the trickiest word in English. It can be weak (ə) or strong (ɑ:) and it can even disappear completely when it contracts. On top of this, it will join with /r/ if the following sound starts with a vowel, AND it behaves like a function word even when it is a content word.

How do I get it right?

‘are’ is normally pronounced /ə/ (without /r/)

It is pronounced /ɑ:/ (without /r/) when it is stressed:

It joins with a /r/ when followed by a vowel:

It is weak even when it is the main verb (no other verb can do this in English):

What happens if I get it wrong?

The main problem is that it ruins the stress in a sentence. As it is nearly always weak, when students over stress the vowel and add the /r/ it gives the word too much prominence. Since the verb ‘be’ is the second most common word in English, this potentially causes a large number of errors.