Ok, there are two different ways to make the American r sound. They both think they are right and that the other is wrong.

  1. Make the r sound by retroflexing the tongue:

crude sketch of retroflexed r

  1. Make the r sound by retracting the tongue:

crude sketch of retracted r

Note: Both methods agree that the tongue should not touch anything in the mouth.

I think the retroflexed r is more natural. I have no way to make the retracted tongue because it is very uncomfortable for me.

So which one is correct?

  • 1
    There are at least four different general pronunciations of /r/ in various dialects of English, both retroflex and retracted included. What dialect are you talking about here? Jan 14, 2015 at 12:22
  • American /R/ sound
    – Tom
    Jan 14, 2015 at 13:33
  • I don't know how I could get my tongue in that second position. It doesn't curl that way.
    – Hot Licks
    Mar 15, 2015 at 18:06
  • What is that "thing"? It looks horrific. Is it MS "Paint" :) What happened to good old fashioned hand drawing, which you can scan and then upload.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Aug 2, 2015 at 16:34

1 Answer 1


To be clear, we're talking about the 'r' sound at the beginning of a syllable, such as rain or rabbit, and not the 'r' sound at the end of a syllable, such as car or derby. For the latter there are variations such as the typical American rhotic 'r' and the typical English non-rhotic 'r'. For the 'r' in the case of your question, both are correct. Though speech therapists, such as the makers of the R Speech Buddy, may choose the retroflexed 'r' as a more effective means of training the 'r' sound. Others will offer both depending on which way is more natural for the speaker. But when it comes to those who don't need speech therapy and just learn to speak, it will be either or both methods used.


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