While British people mostly seem to speak a hard "a", American people tend to make an "ae" in some cases. Here are some examples of what I mean, grouped by pattern:

  • glass/grass
  • cast/past/vast/drastic
  • mask
  • dance/stance/glance
  • can't/grant/plant

It seems like even local accents have an influence on that, but which confuses me most is the word pair "aunt" and "ant".
Because it seems like British people pronounce "ant" different than "can't" even though just the first letter is missing.
And American people seem to be unsure whether they should pronounce their "aunt" like they do their "can't" or like the Englishmen do.

I can see the rule when the "a" is followed by an "r" though: car/care, bar/bare, star/stare, tar/tare ... having said that "are" itself is different again.
But I wonder where the rule (if any) in this is and I hope you can help me.

  • You'll hear very different 'rules' from natives of Liverpool, Bristol and Windsor, to name but three. – JHCL Nov 5 '15 at 14:55
  • Letters are never pronounced. Your very premise is wrong. There is no such thing as "the rule". It does not exist. If you try to come up with one, this is what you'll get. And it will still not cover the pronunciation of fairy as "furry" in a number of dialects. Spelling simply has very little to do with sound. And not just in English, in every language ever. Which is little wonder as spelling was never meant to encode pronunciation in the first place. – RegDwigнt Nov 5 '15 at 15:00
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    @RegDwigнt This is the trap/bath split – Mitch Nov 5 '15 at 15:03
  • Yes, pending clarification by the OP that might indeed be a better fit for closing this as a duplicate of. – RegDwigнt Nov 5 '15 at 15:12
  • @RegDwigнt I guess you're right, but what do you mean by "clearification"? Is the question title or the body too unclear? – Stacky Nov 5 '15 at 15:28