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‘World’ – the 4th most difficult 1 syllable word in English

Have you ever struggled to say the word ‘world’? Look no further than today’s post:

What’s the problem?

This word contains a tricky combination of a difficult long vowel sound, three tricky consonants and a sneaky silent letter.

How do I get it right?

It should sound like /wɜ:ɫd/:

1. Consonant Sound /w/
Round the lips, pull the tongue back and keep the teeth well away from the lips.


2. Long Neutral Vowel Sound /ɜ:/
This is the thinking vowel sound. It is like a long schwa /ə/, you literally relax the jaw, lips and tongue – your mouth should not move at all. The sound is full length in this word.

/ɜː/ /wɜː/

3. Silent /r/

Don’t say the ‘r’ in ‘world’! Not even a tiny bit, it is completely silent as it is followed by a consonant.

4. Dark /ɫ/

The ‘l’ in world is dark because it comes after a vowel sound. Your tongue should raise at the back and the front, it is a very soft sound, not like the clear /l/ you find at the beginning of a word.

/ɫ/ /wɜːɫ/

5. Voiced Alveolar Plosive /d/

Make sure your tongue touches the alveolar ridge (the gum behind the teeth, NOT the teeth). This sound must be voiced – if it sounds like a ‘t’, then it is wrong.

/d/ /wɜːɫd/

What happens if I get it wrong?

English students produce all sorts of strange pronunciations of this word, often it becomes confused with ‘word’, ‘ward’ and even ‘wall’:

word /wɜːd/, world /wɜːɫd/
ward /wɔːd/, world /wɜːɫd/
wall /wɔːɫ/, world /wɜːɫd/