Ye guide to à and  sounds

I'm writing this post on a whim, after seeing another post where a user asks about the pronunciation of Ă and Â. It's not the first time I notice folks having difficulties with those two sounds. So, here we go!

(BTW: Unless otherwise specified, the pronunciations of English words mentioned below are from American English.)

1) Pronunciation of ă

I'm sometimes surprised when users who are native English speakers say that they're having problems "getting" this sound, since it's so easy to find this sound in many English words. Behold!

It's like the first sound in: above, about, again, attention.
Or like the vowel sound just before the r in: pearl, girl, work, water.
Or like the vowel sound just before the l in: trifle.
Or like the last sound in: the. (Not the emphasized "the" pronounced as "thee", but the common "the".)
Or like the sound for the word "a" in: a dog, a cat, a man, a woman, a car. (Not the emphasized "a" like when you're saying the alphabet starting with "a", but the common article analogous to "an" when you are enumerating some things.)

By the way, a common mistake is to try to pronounce Ă like the u in "hump" or "huh". That's not how Ă is supposed to sound.

Here are some English examples of Ă in action. Behold (with your ears)! :-)

Friends - The One Where Ross Got High: (when Monica says: "Again!") (when Rachel says: "trifle...")

Or like the vowel sound in the British pronunciation of "her", as rendered by Google: (when you click on the speaker icon)

2) Pronunciation of î/â

As you probably know, Î and  are the same sound, it's just the spelling that differs based on where that letter is located in the word. It's usually written as î when at the start or at the end of the word, and as â when in the middle of the word. I will try to follow this rule when writing words with î/â in this post, but I will break the rule when writing some interjections.

The sound is kinda like when you start to say "hmm" but get a punch in the guts. With the difference that it should obviously be pronounced more from the vocal chords and less from the guts. Weird explanation, I know...

The sound of  is much harder to find in English, but I still found some useful clips with examples of  in action. Behold again!

2 Stupid Dogs - Seeing Eye Dogs: (when Mr. Hollywood hits his balls on the metal: "hââââââii!")

Looney Tunes - To Duck Or Not To Duck: (when Daffy goes ballistic: many of the "hî!", "hîm!"...)

Dexter's Laboratory - Hamhocks And Armlocks: (at the end of the song: "ahââm, ahââm!". I think this is the best example.)

Austin Powers - The Spy Who Shagged Me (when Austin laughs: "îhîhîhîhîhîhîm...") (when Austin laughs: "îhîhîhî!")

In both these last examples, pay attention to the first sound which Austin makes when starting to laugh; that first Î is a bit more noticeable than the subsequent ones.

Also, if I remember correctly, there should be an even better example of Mike Myers doing the Î sound in the same movie, it's kinda like a disgusted-then-intrigued "îîîîîîîî", but I can't find it.

Anywhoo, I guess that's all, folks! Let me know if it helped you.

July 25, 2018


Quite a tour de force! Thank you.

September 9, 2018

Thank you very much, as a Brazilian your explanation helped a lot.

July 26, 2018

I also have too thank you :) But I have to admit, that my problem is basically not the pronunciation of ă or â but rather the distinction between ă and e at the end of a word.

Generally this applies to most feminin forms: prună, pruna, prune - especially prună vs. prune. At least it is hard to hear.

July 27, 2018

Thank you for this! I never had an issue with ă but î/â was a bit more of a problem to pronounce. It's also hard sometimes to try and explain to others even though I can hear it.

July 29, 2018

Yes! Thanks for this great guide. I'm only 11 and my mother tongue is Romanian. I really have big problems at ă and â. Thank you very much! ;D

July 31, 2018

Thank you, i think i got it

August 27, 2018

Thanks a lot, it is very helpful! And you have a good sense of humor. As a native Russian I should not have had the problem with the sound  for we have basically the same sound. My initial question arose from the pronunciation here on Duolingo where I could not hear the difference between these sounds which as I understood, thanks to all the help I got on the forum, are very different. Once again thank you for the good work you did making the guide!

August 31, 2018
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