English pronunciation poem


If you can pronounce correctly every word in this poem, you will be speaking English better than 90% of the native English speakers in the world.

Dearest creature in creation,
Study English pronunciation.
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse, and worse.
I will keep you, Suzy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy.
Tear in eye, your dress will tear.
So shall I! Oh hear my prayer.
Just compare heart, beard, and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word,
Sword and sward, retain and Britain.
(Mind the latter, how it’s written.)
Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as plaque and ague.
But be careful how you speak:
Say break and steak, but bleak and streak;
Cloven, oven, how and low,
Script, receipt, show, poem, and toe.
Hear me say, devoid of trickery,
Daughter, laughter, and Terpsichore,
Typhoid, measles, topsails, aisles,
Exiles, similes, and reviles;
Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
Solar, mica, war and far;
One, anemone, Balmoral,
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel;
Gertrude, German, wind and mind,
Scene, Melpomene, mankind.
Billet does not rhyme with ballet,
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet.
Blood and flood are not like food,
Nor is mould like should and would.
Viscous, viscount, load and broad,
Toward, to forward, to reward.
And your pronunciation’s OK
When you correctly say croquet,
Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve,
Friend and fiend, alive and live.
Ivy, privy, famous; clamour
And enamour rhyme with hammer.
River, rival, tomb, bomb, comb,
Doll and roll and some and home.
Stranger does not rhyme with anger,
Neither does devour with clangour.
Souls but foul, haunt but aunt,
Font, front, wont, want, grand, and grant,
Shoes, goes, does. Now first say finger,
And then singer, ginger, linger,
Real, zeal, mauve, gauze, gouge and gauge,
Marriage, foliage, mirage, and age.
Query does not rhyme with very,
Nor does fury sound like bury.
Dost, lost, post and doth, cloth, loth.
Job, nob, bosom, transom, oath.
Though the differences seem little,
We say actual but victual.
Refer does not rhyme with deafer.
Foeffer does, and zephyr, heifer.
Mint, pint, senate and sedate;
Dull, bull, and George ate late.
Scenic, Arabic, Pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific.
Liberty, library, heave and heaven,
Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven.
We say hallowed, but allowed,
People, leopard, towed, but vowed.
Mark the differences, moreover,
Between mover, cover, clover;
Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
Chalice, but police and lice;
Camel, constable, unstable,
Principle, disciple, label.
Petal, panel, and canal,
Wait, surprise, plait, promise, pal.
Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, chair,
Senator, spectator, mayor.
Tour, but our and succour, four.
Gas, alas, and Arkansas.
Sea, idea, Korea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria.
Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean.
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.
Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion and battalion.
Sally with ally, yea, ye,
Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, and key.
Say aver, but ever, fever,
Neither, leisure, skein, deceiver.
Heron, granary, canary.
Crevice and device and aerie.
Face, but preface, not efface.
Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.
Large, but target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, out, joust and scour, scourging.
Ear, but earn and wear and tear
Do not rhyme with here but ere.
Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew Stephen,
Monkey, donkey, Turk and jerk,
Ask, grasp, wasp, and cork and work.
Pronunciation (think of Psyche!)
Is a paling stout and spikey?
Won’t it make you lose your wits,
Writing groats and saying grits?
It’s a dark abyss or tunnel:
Strewn with stones, stowed, solace, gunwale,
Islington and Isle of Wight,
Housewife, verdict and indict.
Finally, which rhymes with enough,
Though, through, plough, or dough, or cough?
Hiccough has the sound of cup.
My advice is to give up!!!

Anyway, what is 'better than' in this case. I speak SW London English, Peruvian Castellano, either Berlinerer or Bläckföß my Deutsch depending on who I talk to, Italian is Ticinese from my OH, French is a muddle of some kind that is now influenced by where I am now and yet I have a knowledge of a standard or supposedly high version of each which I use in such cases. By my own standards I am a kind of cheat because I spotted 'feoffer' spelled and know it relates to feofdom or feifdom in medieval land ownership even. There is another spelling error, look and whilst reading slowly it should cause a 'stumble' that will reveal it.

Would not dare try it on my OH though, even after over a decade she she still says things like 'clotheses' even if reading aloud. This would get my ear slapped very fast I moot!

Brilliant, James! My notaire student will love it (and my advanced group at the prison). Thanks for posting it.

As an EFL teacher I would have to agree ......

(Composed by Dr. Gerard Nolst Trenité (1870-1946), a Dutch author and teacher, “The Chaos” illustrates many of the irregularities of English spelling) -googled it easy.

can read it straight off, there's a few version, some a wee bit harder but I'm a linguist so probably effectively cheating. mind you, I do NOT count my own accent in it.

@ John hope Falkner

Lee gave you the meaning of the latter word. The
former, "foeffer" is, I believe, a misspelling of
"feoffer", more properly "feoffor", and, when
spelled correctly, can be found in the OED.

A feoffer is one of those old terms referring to a
person involved with the legalities of land
ownership. I must admit I have never been very
good at understanding those old systems.

Here is another one I have been using:

I take it you alroeady know

Of tough and bough and cough and dough?

Others may stumble but not you

On hiccough, thorough, laugh and through?

Well done! And now you wish perhaps

To learn of less familiar traps?

Beware of heard, a dreadful word

That looks like beard and sounds like bird.

And dead: it's said like bed, not bead -

For goodness sake don't call it 'deed'!

Watch out for meat and great and threat,

They rhyme with suite and straight and debt.

A moth is not a moth in mother

Nor both in bother, broth in brother,

And there is not a match for there

Nor dear and fear for bear and pear,

And then there's dose and rose and lose -

Just look them up - and goose and choose.

And cork and work and card and ward,

And font and front and word and sword,

And do and go and thwart and cart -

Come come , I've hardly made a start!

A dreadful language? Man alive,

I'd mastered it when I was five.

by T.S.W.

This is FABULOUS enough to discourage my bilingual (speaking) children who are learning to READ English at last. Think I'll just torture my Aussie mates with it instead ;-) Don't want to put the kids of learning to speak proper, eh? !!

Nice one James, I will use it to torture my occasional English students.

But... bet you do not know what Foeffer is?.. and Google will not help you ( I know, I tried)

Fantastic!! Have passed it on to my son who is an English teacher in Madrid, and another son who is a published poet and aspiring author. He and his graduate friends are loving it.

This is ABSOLUTELY fabulous! Must copy it for my grandson. Would LOVE to put it on my blog, James.

.....a little too long for me and most tastes, for one to read and not make mistakes

Fantastic! read it all through aloud! I think it would spread despair amongst even my best English students!!

I will never complain about the ridiculous difficulty of the french language again! But you have to love the English language!

Thanks, Johnny.

I was unable to find the author, does anyone know?

This is brilliant - to whom is it attributable? thanks.

HAving just come back from teaching my first ever TESOL lesson this did make me laugh,


Love it. Passing it on to my partner who is nearing the end of an english course with the Chambre de Commerce. Latest evaluation was excellent except for pronounciation (despite my best efforts). This poem is now going to be added to this weekends' homework