Giving Directions – Prepositions and the Schwa Sound

Giving Directions

Do you know what the most common sound in English is?

Schwa.”

(Bless you!)

Thank you, but I didn’t sneeze!

“Schwa” is the name of this sound:

/ə/

Did you hear it?

/ə/ is a short quiet low-pitched sound, so it’s a little difficult to hear.

If you practice saying words with this sound, you’ll be able to hear it all the time.

To make this sound, open your mouth just a little.  Your tongue is in the centre of your mouth.  This is a  relaxed sound, so you don’t need any tension in your muscles.

The /ə/ sound is in prepositions, so giving directions is a good way to start practicing.

Listen carefully for the short quiet sounds of the underlined prepositions in the directions below.  Try to repeat directions to practice the schwa sound.

If someone asks,

“Excuse me.  I’m looking for the Court House.  Is it near here?”

You can say,

“Yes.  It’s on Queen Street, about a 10-minute walk from here.

Walk down Yonge Street for a few blocks to Queen.

Turn right at Queen.

Go past the mall and you’ll see it on the right.”

For more practice, imagine giving directions to places in your neighbourhood, like a restaurant, coffee shop, bank, or post office.  Say these directions out loud.  Make sure your prepositions are short and quiet.

*Here’s a chart of the sounds of some common prepositions for giving directions:

Preposition

Careful Slow Pronunciation

Relaxed Natural Pronunciation

on

/an/

/ən/

in

/ɪn/

/ən/

of

/ʌv/

/əv/ OR /ə/

at

/æt/

/ət/

to

/tuw/

/tə/

for

/for/

/fər/ OR /fə/

from

/frʌm/

/frəm/

down

/dawn/

/dən/

through

/θruw/

/θrə/

past

/pæst/

/pəst/

over

/owvər/

/əvər/ OR /əvə/

onto

/antə/

/əntə/ OR /ənə/

about

/əbawt/

/əbət/

 

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