I listened to the pronunciation of words containing ar with the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary I have on my computer; in particular, I checked the pronunciation of the following words:

  • Dare
  • Care
  • Mare
  • Bear
  • Bare

I noticed that the pronunciation, for example, of bare is reported as /ber/, but the word seems to be pronounced as /beər/. (I hope it's clear what I mean.)

Is that exact, or am I misunderstanding the pronunciation of those words?

Strangely, the pronunciation in British English of those words is shown as containing the /eə/ sound, but I perceive a single sound (maybe prolonged).

  • This is one of the parts of English phonology which varies most widely between dialects - especially the terminal, which 'rhotic' dialects realize as a lateral consonant and 'non-rhotic' dialects mostly as a glide onto /ə/--except in certain phonetic contexts, where it may be realized as a tip-r with no preceding glide. Feb 26, 2013 at 17:49
  • In British English pronunciation, it's definitely the diphthong that you show. Feb 26, 2013 at 17:50
  • The pronunciation of these varies radically in different dialects. I assume you're talking about the American pronunciation. It can be either /beɚ/ or /ber/, which I think are the two alternatives you're asking about. I use both (!), depending on whether the following sound is a consonant or a vowel. Feb 26, 2013 at 22:09
  • 2
    At least where I'm from in America those words all rhyme perfectly.
    – ssb
    Feb 27, 2013 at 6:23
  • @PeterShor I am talking of the pronunciation in American English, and the difference between the reported pronunciation, and the pronunciation I hear.
    – apaderno
    Feb 27, 2013 at 9:59

2 Answers 2


The pronunciation of bare (and similar words) in American English varies between different AmE dialects. For Americans who don't drop their r's, it is either [ber] or [beər]; most Americans have the merry/Mary merger and treat these as the same phoneme. For some Americans (like me) this phoneme is pronounced /er/ before a vowel and /eər/ before a consonant or a pause. So I would say [ker ʌv] (care of) and [keər fɔr] (care for). For many Americans, the same holds for the phonemes in are, air, ear, oar, tour.

The OALD really has to choose one notation for this phoneme, even though it gets pronounced different ways; otherwise it would make learning English even more confusing than it needs to be. On the other hand, the OALD doesn't always manage to make the audio pronunciation match the written pronunciation: it gives /mæri/ for the pronunciation of marry, but to me the audio definitely sounds like /meri/; these two different pronunciations are both correct, but depend on the dialect of the speaker.


It is pronounced as air in these instances; it is pronounced as our or are in the case of car, hard, bar, star etc.

  • 3
    -1, as I say "our" and "are" very differently.
    – Felix Weir
    Mar 5, 2013 at 16:38

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