Accent Symbols

Although there are many individual sounds as part of North American English, this Web site will focus on sounds created by word reductions, specifically with the schwa sound (ə) that affects stress and rhythm. This will be the focus of this page. I have compiled a helpful table of words that use the schwa sound that you’ll encounter in day-to-day conversations.

Here is a basic list of words that often use this sound, but remember that this sound can be found in many words that have unstressed syllables. This communication practice should be of use to you, whether you are studying the language at home for personal enrichment or seeking out other online learning opportunities. I hope you can learn from it.


Word Reduction Sample Sentences
a ə I bought ə shirt for my brother.
an ə There’s ən elephant at the zoo.
the thə Please talk to thə teacher about thə test.


to tə I have tə make breakfast təday.
I usetə (used to) write her every morning.
for fər This letter is fər my mom.
about əbout Tell me əbout your weekend.
of əf or ə I ate a piece ə pie.


and ən or ‘n I really like banana ən apples.
or ər Would you like water ər juice?


her ər Please tell ər I called.
him əm / im I need to talk to im today.
them əm How about calling əm today?
you Did  like the movie?

Modals of Advice or Ability:

ought to ought tə We ought tə leave now.
have got to have gottə You’ve gottə go to bed now.
(I/we/they) have to haftə I haftə study for a test.
(he/she) has to hastə She hastə talk with the teacher.
want to wannə I wannə see a movie.
can kn She kn speak English very well.

Modals of Regret of Past Speculation:

should have should əf I should əf called her last night.
could have could əf He could əf traveled overseas, but he chose to work instead.
ought to have ought tə əf You ought tə əf checked the used before you bought it.