AHH – the Dentist Sound

Mouth Position

/ɑː/ is a vowel sound made with the jaw open, the lips relaxed, and the tongue slightly back. It is such an open sound that your dentist will ask you to make it in order to see inside your mouth. Altogether then, open wide /ɑː/

Spellings of /ɑː/

In most spellings of /ɑː/ we’ll find the letter ‘a’ and a silent consonant ‘l’ or ‘r’; most commonly the <ar> in CAR and TART and the <al> in CALM and PALM. It’s also the <ear> in HEART, the <er> in DERBY, the <au> in AUNT, the <a> in LAGER and the <oir> in BOUDOIR.

Received Pronunciation /ɑː/ vs Regional /æ/

One of the most noticeable variations in British English accents is in words like BATH, PASS, LAUGHTER and EXAMPLE where in RP they are pronounced /ɑː/ but in many regional accents they are with /æ/, so /ˈbæθ, ˈpæs, ˈlæftə, ɪgˈzæmpl/. There is no hard and fast rule for this, but it tends to happen before certain sounds, particularly /f, s, θ/ (see trap/bath split on wikipedia).

Learning /ɑː/

Learners of English pronunciation should ensure that they make three different sounds in the words HEART /ˈhɑːt/, HUT /ˈhʌt/ and HAT /ˈhæt/ as many languages only have one sound in that area of the mouth. Learners should not pronounce the ‘r’ in words like CART /ˈkɑːt/ and BARK /ˈbɑːk/, unless you are aiming for American English so /ˈkɑːrt/ and /ˈbɑːrk/. The negative word AREN’T /ˈɑːnt/ is pronounced exactly the same as AUNT, your parent’s sister. Also, be very careful with the word CAN’T /ˈkɑːnt/ – as without /ɑː/ it can become the rudest word in English, can’t it?

Posh & Northern Accents

Posh English speakers say YA instead of ‘yes’. They also say CHARMING, DARLING and RATHER, rather a lot. Extremely posh speakers use /ɑː/ in words like HOUR, FLOWER, TOWER and POWER where common folk would use the combination /aʊə/ so /ˈaʊə, ˈflaʊə, ˈtaʊə, ˈpaʊə/. In Northern accents, the sound is often made towards the front, like a long [æː] so CALM, LARGE and HEART. Which sounds MARVELLOUS if you ask me.


/ɑː/is a very versatile exclamation on its own, note the different intonation in:

‘AHH relax’,
‘AHH that’s so cute’,
‘AHH, I didn’t know that’
‘ARGH, damn!’

It also appears with other sounds in the exclamations:

‘HAHA /ˈhɑːhɑː/, that’s really funny’,
‘HURRAH /həˈrɑː/! We’ve won!’,
‘GAH /ˈgɑː/, this is ridiculous!’,
‘BAH /ˈbɑː/, whatever.’
‘MWAH /ˈmwɑː/, kissy kissy’,
‘OOH LA LA /ˌuːlɑːˈlɑː/, very fancy’

And the sound evil pronunciation teachers make:

‘MUAHAHAHA /ˈmwɑːhɑːhɑːhɑː/’.

By | 2017-03-09T08:38:57+00:00 March 8th, 2017|Pronunciation, Sounds|13 Comments


  1. Justyna March 8, 2017 at 9:31 pm - Reply

    This is great!!! I love English!!

  2. Stella March 8, 2017 at 9:35 pm - Reply

    I loved it

  3. S. Prema Theja March 9, 2017 at 12:04 am - Reply

    It’s really great! Highly useful.

  4. Boliph Odhiambo March 9, 2017 at 5:23 am - Reply

    AHH what a lesson!

  5. IM March 9, 2017 at 6:03 am - Reply

    This article was super usefulness useful and good laugh at the end 🙂 thank you!!!

  6. Kris March 9, 2017 at 10:00 am - Reply

    Very informative ,how and where don i find this educational training ?

  7. Peronne Christian March 9, 2017 at 3:18 pm - Reply


  8. Fanny Vidal March 9, 2017 at 6:36 pm - Reply

    I lear a lot when I went to this wonderful school in London, now I am starting to teach them to my students… thanks

  9. matilda cubas March 10, 2017 at 9:37 pm - Reply

    helping a lot!!

  10. Chris March 11, 2017 at 9:19 pm - Reply

    a hilarious ending! XD

  11. Emre Selen April 13, 2017 at 10:15 pm - Reply

    I love English.. I’ve been into English since I was six and I enjoyed every single moment on English since then. Cheers!

  12. HabrLink April 16, 2017 at 5:52 pm - Reply

    On top of the position of the mouth, we need to consider the quality of the vowel this is its length and volume. The higher the level of stress on any vowel sound, the longer it will be. The categorisation of vowels as long and short is therefore quite unsatisfactory the length of a vowel is affected by its level of stress and the sounds around it.

  13. Abdulbaki A Ahmad May 9, 2018 at 5:59 pm - Reply

    Great Mr Hudson and your team. I really enjoy each and every bit of your lessons!

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