The word "run" has the same phonemes in the UK and US, but, when I heard their pronunciations from Cambridge Dictionary, I heard a great difference between both of them.

I want to know:

  • Do they have the same sounds?
  • Why do I hear something different? Is it just the accent?
  • Is there a way to train my ear to be able to notice the sounds of the different phonemes? (I've been trying to learn them, but I fail when hearing them.)
  • 1
    I'm a native American English speaker and clearly hear the difference in accent. I am also curious as to the precise reason the phonetics are different. To me, they clearly are the same phonemes, but the UK version sounds more fortis. I know that some dialects of English do not have a rounding with initial /r/ (e.g., Irish English?), but I don't think I hear that unrounded here. Feb 21, 2022 at 22:26

2 Answers 2


Yes. This is the difference between phonemic and phonetic analysis.

A particular phoneme such as /ʌ/ might be produced in different ways by different speakers, or in different ways by the same speaker in different contexts. Sometimes a linguist might want to use notation to indicate the difference.

An example of this is "light l" and "dark l" These represent the same phoneme /l/ but phonetically light l is [l] and dark l is [ɫ]. Some dialects and speakers use only dark or only light l. Some speakers use both, but in different contexts. Note the use of square brackets for the phonetic sound, but slashes for the phonemic interpretation of that sound.

The American pronunciation of /ɹʌn/ has a vowel that is rather more forward than the British pronunciation. But this is merely a variation between speakers and isn't significant for the phonemic interpretation of the sound.

So, they don't have the same sound, but this is "just" accent. A learner should normally focus on clear pronunciation in one dialect, and usually either the RP pronunciation of Southern Britain, or the General American accent, widely spoken in America (as these are the accents that most people are familiar with)


The other answer is great, but I'll focus on this part of your question:

Is there a way to train my ear to be able to notice the sounds of the different phonemes? (I've been trying to learn them, but I fail when hearing them.)

Your main issue might be due to an expectation that you can quickly learn to hear and identify different sounds as belonging to the same phoneme. This type of skill is a complex pattern matching, which requires lots of exposure to many sounds, and a biological growth of neural networks in your brain. It's very much NOT like learning a fact. It's more like learning a skill. You can expect progress in this area to be counted in weeks and months of regular practice.

Don't be so hard on yourself. I'd suggest that you not focus on this one aspect that you're hyper-focusing on. It's like wanting a plant to grow faster than it is. It won't happen. Just continue to study and practice, water your plant, and the plant will grow (you will learn).

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