R sound

The ‘r’ sound (e.g ‘rely’) is one of the most difficult sounds to make in English and a lot of learners have difficulties with it. A lot of other languages have a similar sound but is often produced in a different way which is the reason why there are often a lot of mistakes made (learners will try to make the ‘r’ sound from their native language instead).

There are two parts to making the ‘r’ sound.

  1. movement of the lips
  2. movement of the tongue

Lip movement

The first thing we need to get right is the movement of the lips. It is a similar movement to the ‘w’ sound but with a few differences.

  1. the lips start slightly further apart and make more of an oval shape than a circle.
  2. the lips are pushed out slightly (like you are puckering the lips).

Lip start position for the ‘w’ sound

Lip start position for the ‘r’ sound

The lips still open (just like in a ‘w’ sound) but it’s the starting position of the lips that we need to change to get a correct ‘r’ sound.

Tongue movement

The tongue movement is a little more difficult to get right.

  1. The front of the tongue should be flat + low, sitting just behind the bottom teeth.
  2. The back of the tongue should pull back and up. Because it is squashed, the sides of it should touch the sides of the back teeth.

Position of the tongue for the ‘r’ sound


Now practise making the ‘r’ sound with these words. Audio is included to help guide you.

Remember the lips start slightly further apart (than the ‘w’ sound) and in an oval shape.
Remember the position of the tongue (front low and back pulled back).
  1. Right
  2. Rain
  3. Really
  4. Rather
  5. Red
  6. Error
  7. Rose
  8. Rest
  9. Arise
  10. Area
  11. Oral
  12. Rent
  13. Raw
  14. Read
  15. Rat

Also, make sure to check out these R / W tongue twisters and R / L tongue twisters if you need more practise in differentiating between the two sounds.


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