This guy says here there are two ways of "making the /r/ sound". His explanation lacks academic rigor and necessary phonetic details. He claims the first way is: "It's like a /l/, with your tongue against the roof of your mouth. Tongue up, behind front teeth; lips relaxed." And the other way: "It's like a /v/, with your top teeth near your bottom lip. Tongue relaxed; top teeth against lower lip."

I tried but failed to reproduce the sounds he describes. I don't think my /r/ is either of those. (U.S. West Coast parents. Raised overseas. Most of my adult years have been spent on the East Coast)

I was under the impression that /r/ is effected most commonly as the voiced postalveolar approximant on either side of the pond. But what that guy describes doesn't seem to fit. So what are the two phones (sounds) in phonetics that he is likely referring to?


  1. Even mispronunciations are phones too. If I point to an incorrect solution to an arithmetic problem and ask "what's the number presented in the solution?" The result may well be a miscalculation, but it is still a number.

  2. If you watch the video, the YouTuber claims that /v/ sound has become the more popular realization of /r/ in the UK.

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    The first one is probably the voiced alveolar approximant, badly described. Oct 23, 2021 at 22:20
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    Youtube is not really a good source of information about language. Consider what the qualifications are for putting a video on youtube> Oct 23, 2021 at 22:57
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    As its title indicates, the video is about a man who famously mispronounces his Rs. Hence the second "It's like a /v/, with your top teeth near your bottom lip." (I guess a labiodental approximant) is a mispronunciation.
    – Stuart F
    Oct 24, 2021 at 9:47
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    @JohnLawler Similarly the answers here, Wikipedia, Quora, etc. etc. etc.
    – Mitch
    Oct 25, 2021 at 9:57
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    @EddieKal 'approximant' covers a lot of mouth configurations and sounds. 'Put. your tongue like this and like this' is terribly underspecified. 'r' is notoriously variant within and between language varieties. French 'r' is like an English velar 'g' but fricative, Spanish 'r' is like a 'd' between vowels, and Chinese 'r' is like 'z'. Which is all to say it's gonna be hard to describe well.
    – Mitch
    Oct 25, 2021 at 10:03

1 Answer 1


The wikipedia article on Pronunciation of English /r/ covers the two R sounds he describes, as well as my best guess for your R sound.

The one he calls L-like is the "Standard" R in this article, the postalveolar approximant. He shows the IPA at 0:21, although the sound he actually produces here (presumably to emphasize the contrast) is an alveolar trill, not the approximant.

The one he calls V-like is the "Labial" or "Rounded" R in this article, the labiodental approximant; he shows the IPA and gives the articulatory description at 2:34. This type of R is sometimes called the Cockney R.

If your parents are from the West Coast and his description of the "Standard" R seems very different to you, you probably learned the "Bunched" or "Molar" R, which happens to be my own pronunciation too, and I'm from central Canada.

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