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I heard the letter a was pronounced /ei/, and sometimes it was pronounced as /ə/. So, can you tell me when is it pronounced as /ei/, and when as /ə/?

marked as duplicate by RegDwigнt May 11 '18 at 23:12

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    Can you provide any words as examples? – jera Jan 14 '16 at 10:37
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    Nowhere near enough information. Pronunciation depends on the surrounding letters, the etymology of the word, and the dialect/accent of the person speaking. – AndyT Jan 14 '16 at 10:37
  • I think this question is currently too broad. We could answer a specific example like "Why is a pronounced differently in X and Y" where you could choose an X and Y which demonstrate the problem. – Andrew Leach Jan 14 '16 at 10:55
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    English pronunciation is a minefield. There are often patterns, guides and clues but rarely a simple, unambiguous answer, even for the shortest words - a cat (/ə kat/), a car (/ə kɑː/). And this is before you consider emphasis and regional variations (within and between countries). The secret to keeping a happy, positive attitude is to wonder and marvel at the madness. – Dan Jan 14 '16 at 11:23
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    If you're interested in this question from the viewpoint of someone learning English, then you might consider asking it over on English Language Learners: ell.stackexchange.com – user11752 Jan 14 '16 at 12:14

Generally speaking, when referring to the letter of the alphabet "A," it's pronounced /ei/, but when referring to the word "a" that appears as an article before words, such as "a car" or "a boat," then it is almost always pronounced /ə/. The word "a" is occasionally pronounced /ei/, but only when the speaker wishes to give it special emphasis. For example:

I didn't say to put my purse in "a car"; I said to put it in "the car."

In this sentence, a speaker would likely pronounce "a" as /ei/, not the standard /ə/, just like the speaker would likely pronounce "the" as /ðiː/ instead of /ðə/.

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